Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) told PokerNews.com that he doesn’t expect movement on his online poker bill until 2012. Barton envisions his bill getting a subcommittee markup in the spring, followed by a date with the full House Energy and Commerce Committee (currently chaired by Michigan Republican Fred Upton, who voted for the bill that turned into the UIGEA). Assuming Upton doesn’t put his foot down, Barton expects his marked-up bill to get a full House vote by summer, and after that, well, Barton’s feeling pretty cocky about his chances. “If we get it up for a vote in the House, we have the votes. I think we have the vote in the subcommittee, the full committee and on the House floor.”
While Barton allows for the possibility that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) might introduce his own online poker bill before then, Barton thinks the situation is “a little more dicey in the Senate because of the 60-vote requirement. Our whole strategy is to get something on the president’s desk this Congress, so we have 13 months to go.”
Of course, if there’s no federal progress before next November’s elections, Barton will have to move any future poker legislation through a House minus longtime gambling advocate Barney Frank, who announced this week that the current term would be his last. Frank intends to use his remaining time in office to keep pushing for the “important issue” of online gambling, but Frank also would appreciate a little help from Sen. Reid. Pro-poker types like Barton notwithstanding, Frank thinks the Republican caucus in the House “consists half of people who think like Michele Bachmann and half of people who are afraid of losing a primary to people who think like Michele Bachmann, and that leaves very little room to work things out.”
Regardless of online poker’s progress in Washington, the individual states may (and will, in our view) beat the feds to the punch. More and more state lotteries are either selling ticket subscriptions online or planning to do so, and a bold few are musing aloud about launching their own online poker operations without first seeking federal permission. And on Thursday, New Jersey will hold public hearings on its plan to bring sports betting to the Garden State – which would also be made available online. So our advice to the feds would be, get a move on or get out of the way.