Online Poker Advocate Barton Seeks Regulation Via Horse Racing Bill

Joe BartonStandalone bills to regulate online poker at the federal level haven’t gained much support over the years. Texas Rep. Joe Barton tried numerous times to push legislation through to no avail. So Barton has a new strategy – combining poker with a bill designed to oversee the horse racing industry.

The bill may also include sports betting legislation, as federal lawmakers have expressed a desire to provide oversight on that issue as well. A Congressional subcommittee was scheduled to hold a hearing on sports betting this week in light of last month’s US Supreme Court PASPA ruling that repealed the ban on sports betting. The hearing was postponed without a new date set.

One hearing that was held, however, was that of the Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee. Lawmakers on that committee met last week to discuss Rep. Andy Barr’s proposal that seeks to better regulate horse racing in terms of combating the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

Bi-Partisan Support

Barr’s bill has support on both sides of the aisle, with 75 Democrats and 50 Republicans as co-sponsors, according to Roll Call. But that didn’t prevent the hearing from getting rather heated, as legislators expressed their views on the measure that seeks to establish a Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority.

Differing viewpoints on the best way to regulate horse racing emerged. As did discussions on sports betting and online poker, prompting Barton to consider legislation that encompasses all three issues. However, that idea didn’t get a thumbs-up from Barr, who would rather that his PED proposal not be sullied with other controversial matters.

Texas Legislator Forced to Fold His Hand

Barton introduced three federal online poker bills over the last eight years, but his proposals went for naught. That leaves the US online poker industry in its present situation in which states are allowed to regulate online poker and gambling under their own jurisdictions.

The PASPA ruling finds the US in a similar situation with regard to sports betting. It is now legal for individual states to offer wagering on sports. It certainly makes sense that federal lawmakers would want to provide greater oversight on sports betting in light of the PASPA decision.

It also makes sense to include online poker with sports betting. Let’s hope that lawmakers can see the wisdom in combining the two. But odds are that the horse racing legislation won’t be packaged with sports betting and poker, not if Rep. Barr has his way. And as the author of the anti-doping bill that has plenty of backing from his colleagues, the safe money is on the horse racing issue to standalone.

In any event, supporters of online poker are ecstatic over the Supreme Court’s decision to allow sports betting. It provides new leverage for i-poker regulation on both the federal and state levels. I wouldn’t expect Barton to be successful if he attempts to attach a poker amendment to the horse racing bill, but the door is open a bit wider for online poker legislation thanks to the recent ruling from the highest court in the land.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett