Friday, July 26, 2013

Florida Poker Player Martin Shapiro Crafts Sample Online Poker Bill

What's a poker player to do when all the possible legislation regarding the future of fully regulated US online poker?  In the case of Martin Shapiro, a poker-playing attorney from Florida, the answer is to craft a better bill, one free of most of the special interests that actually dominate the D.C. scene.

For Shapiro, who was once the Poker Players Alliance's Florida state director -- but has since separated himself from that lobbying group -- the effort seems natural.  Shapiro has been a vocal contributor on many legislative forums dealing with poker matters, and has even taken time out from his own projects to offer constructive input on Delaware's upcoming online-poker offerings when that state opened their plans up for public comment.

Shapiro's home-grown Internet Wagering Citizens Protection Act is an interesting experiment, an attempt to construct an online-poker regulatory mechanism that has the bare minimum of pork-barrel cutouts within, an attempt to create a uniform bill that has something for everybody but remains reasonably fair for all, players, operators and government alike.

Shapiro's draft has been modified several times, to date, and is mostly complete.  He's made a copy of it available for public viewing here.

Shapiro (who posts online as "PokerXanadu") has admitted to grabbing chunks and pieces from several different legislative efforts on the federal level.  All told, he probably has the right idea.  Whether or not he could actually find a legislator to seriously consider his draft proposal, the bill as he sees it includes some provisions which consensus opinion suggests will end up having to be included in a federal bill.  Among those provisions:

  • Age 21 minimum for players
  • Geolocation tracking, identity verification, fraud and problem-gambling protections
  • An "opt-in" mechanism, but with an an opt-out option for all states and federally-recognized tribes not wishing to take part
  • States and tribes would be recognized as secondary licensing authorities
  • A bad actor clause for offshore operators convicted of offering illegal online services to US players (the use of the word "convicted" is key, and actually minimizes the potential impact)
  • However, no criminal or civil penalties for players who have or would use such sites.

There's lots more, but those are a handful of the main points.  And if you look at, these things make sense.  What are the chances that a bill such as Shapiro's gets serious consideration?  Well, it's not very likely at all.  Nonetheless, it can't hurt the online-poker regulatory argument to have documents such as this floating around, available for public view.  Despite the territorial grabs that have, to date, delayed many serious proposals from moving forward at the federal and state levels, a cooperative approach such as that outlined by Shapiro is really the future of US online poker.  The sooner all the possible players recognize it, the better off everyone will be.

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