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October 18, 2017

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American Gaming Association backing effort to legalize online poker

The American Gaming Association, the gaming industry’s biggest lobbyist, came out today in unequivocal support of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s bid to legalize online poker.

The AGA, which had previously not taken a position on online gambling, changed its position in March to support the concept with certain regulations. After studying the issue, AGA members concluded that online gambling would grow the overall gambling market rather than cannibalize it, as previously feared.

It could be a $25 billion industry in the United States, a market several gaming operators are eager to tap into.

But the AGA didn’t focus on the revenue-generating portions of the bill — really, the main point of the bill — and instead, directed its comments toward the stepped-up security and enforcement measures that come along with it.

“This is tough law-and-order legislation that puts in place a solid regulatory framework and legal oversight that will prevent illegal activity and protect the estimated 15 million Americans who already are playing poker online,” said Frank Fahrenkopf, the president and CEO of the AGA. “Current online gambling laws do not provide these safeguards, leaving players and the system open to fraud, cheating and other illegal acts.”

Reid’s proposed legislation still doesn’t have a guaranteed mechanism to come to the Senate floor, and there’s no guarantee it would pass if it did. Reid had initially hoped to bring it to the floor as a provision of the tax bill being negotiated; that avenue seems nearly dead now after chief Senate GOP negotiator and Minority Whip Jon Kyl said there was “zero chance” that legalization of online poker would be included in the bill.

Talks about other potential vehicles for the measure are still percolating, but the clock is ticking. There are only about two weeks left until Christmas, and once the lame-duck session is over, online poker’s chances are likely dead for a long while. House GOP leaders are not friendly to the idea of legalizing online gaming of any kind.

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