Coalition formed to push for legalization of online poker

"Outreach will be directed toward law enforcement officials, those who support Internet consumer safety, and online poker’s strongest asset — the millions of Americans who enjoy online poker.”

A 2006 law passed by Congress banned U.S. players from transferring money to online gambling sites, but the sites themselves were largely left alone until April, when the FBI shut down the three biggest online poker sites in a crackdown dubbed "Black Friday" by the poker industry.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) has since introduced a bill that would legalize online poker and give casinos, card rooms and other currently licensed gaming operations the advantage in setting up new sites for the first two years after the law passes.

The bill appears headed to the House Energy and Commerce Committee with bipartisan support.

McNee told Hillicon her organization is dedicated to legalizing online poker specifically rather than online gambling in general, and will focus on outreach to supporters. There will be no direct lobbying of lawmakers.

Supporters argue 10 million Americans played online poker until the recent crackdown and that the game itself is not illegal, since it's a game of skill that Americans are free to play at home.

Opponents include general opponents of gambling, along with those concerned the sites are being used to launder money or cheat American consumers.

Barton's bill would create a federal regulatory body to oversee poker at the national level while state gaming commissions would license sites based within their borders.

FairPlayUSA does not endorse any specific legislation, but the organization's website lays out 10 principles to be included in federal legislation, such as safeguards against cheating or allowing underage players onto the sites.

“I wholeheartedly endorse having policymakers clearly define what is illegal Internet gambling and giving law enforcement the tools necessary to enforce such a ban," Ridge said.

"I also strongly support the strict regulation of online poker. Americans who choose to play poker against each other on the Internet should be assured that the games are fair and limited to adults."

Raymer is also active in the Poker Players Alliance, which represents about a million online poker players, including roughly 50,000 that rely on it for their livelihood.

McNee said her organization won't work directly with the Poker Players Alliance, but she hopes to have their support since both have the same desire for Congress to act quickly.