More people are starting to believe that online poker will be legalized at the federal level. However, no one is able to agree as to when regulation will be passed. Representatives from Bally’s Interactive, a major supplier of gaming systems, believe that online poker will be regulated at some point in the future, but question when that will happen.
Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, is pushing to legalize online poker by the end of 2012. Bally’s questions how likely he is to get the bill passed in that timeframe. Although Reid has been one of the biggest Congressional supporters of online poker, he is likely to find it difficult to get regulation passed during since it is an election year.
Reid hasn’t made any statements about a new draft of an online poker bill for about a year and a half. In addition to the political challenges the industry faces during an election year, a number of other burdens will need to be overcome. Some groups such as the NCSL are opposed to regulating online gaming at the federal level.
Bally’s feels that one solution the government will have to consider is pursuing federal regulation while giving individual states the option to opt-out of it. However, many states may still oppose this regulation unless they can receive assurances that they will be fairly compensated.
According to John Connelly, Bally’s Vice President of Business Development hopes to see some companies operate at the state level first. Since Nevada has been the first state to legalize online poker, it is most likely the first state that will issue licenses to gaming companies. Connelly hopes gaming firms will be licensed in Nevada within the next three months.
Despite acknowledging the challenges the online poker industry faces, Connelly stated that federal regulation is still its best recourse. Operating under a state-by-state basis could lead to serious liquidity problems and make it more costly for gaming firms to operate.
A few other gaming executives have shown even more pessimism than Connelly. Mike Tobin, CEO of Continent 8 Technologies feels that it may not even be possible for the government to regulate online poker at the federal level. Jonathan Halkyard of Caesar’s Entertainment is adamant that online gaming be regulated without having all proper safeguards and regulations to protect consumers.