ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Railing against an “unenforceable” 2006 law banning online gambling, Rep. Joe Barton (R – TX) presented a bill to Congress this week that would make the practice legal again.
Barton’s bill would, ideally, allow states to opt-in to regulate online poker websites and potentially gain tax revenue from them.
“Texas would have to opt in to allow me, who lives in Texas, to play online for money if this bill becomes law,” Barton said.
Supporters say reversing the 2006 federal ruling – named the Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act – that banned online gambling will mean more jobs and a hike in tax revenues for states struggling with increasing unemployment and public debt.
Opponents say Internet gambling preys on the more vulnerable members of society.
The Ennis Republican answered critics on CNBC Wednesday morning, saying the bill establishes avenues that will identify both underage gamblers and of-age residents who are addicted to the practice.
“The bill has very strict safeguards protecting against underage poker players and addictive poker players,” Barton said. “There are very sophisticated programs to try and track somebody who might have a problem and then do something about it.”
Barton said regulating the industry will prevent websites from operating illegally and further avoid costly, long-term investigations by the federal government.
On April 15, the Justice Department unsealed an indictment against 11 defendants, including large-scale operations like PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker.
The companies were charged with bank fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling offenses.
Barton previously presented a bill in the last Congressional session, but it did not pass. He told CNBC in June that the bill could “generate in the neighborhood of $3 billion per year.”
Barton’s bill has not made it out of committee.