When we think of poker games, Texas Holdem is generally the first to come to mind. It’s been the most widespread poker-style card game in the world for decades. And yet, despite its distinctive southwest origins, it is not a legal poker option in the Lone Star State. House Rep. Joe Barton [R-Texas] hopes to change that.
“It’s very ironic that Texas hold ’em poker is played everywhere legally except in Texas,” said Barton, who has been advocating the legalization of online poker in the US for years. “But one of these days that will change.”
Rep. Barton has a grand vision for the future of his home state; one that would include legal poker games played in a brick-and-mortar card room, as well as over the internet. An avid fan of the game, the politician says he’s not alone either.
“I go to Oklahoma about every three or four months to play poker,” explained Barton. “I have yet to sit at a poker table at Winstar with someone who is not from Texas. And most times they are from the [Dallas / Fort Worth] area.”
As of right now, Texas law only permits one form of legal poker, and that’s a purely social home game [Texas Penal Code, Title 10, Section 47.02(b)]. Friends can gather at one of their respective houses and deal up a poker game with real money on the table without threat of legal repercussion. The only requirements are that it’s done in a private residence, and that there is no “house” take (buy-in, fees, rake, etc.) Only the players themselves can earn money, and only based on their performance at the table.
Barton said that he intends to introduce another online poker bill to Congress in the next month or two. The aim of the bill would be to impose federal guidelines for regulating online poker, as opposed to letting each state draft their own regulations, (as is the current model). Individual states would then have the right to opt-in to authorizing legal poker games over the internet.
Unlike the iGaming markets currently operating in Delaware and New Jersey, Barton says of his proposal, “It’s poker only. It doesn’t apply to the lottery or any other games of chance.” As for whether those states would be able to continue promoting online casino games, or whether four other states could sustain their online lottery sales, that would be left up to the regulators in those states – maybe.
If Rep. Jason Chaffetz [R-Utah] has anything to say about it, not only will Barton’s bill be crushed, the online poker market in Nevada, online poker/casino market in Delaware and New Jersey, as well as the online lottery sales in Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana and Michigan, would all be eradicated. Chaffetz is responsible for a bill known as the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), backed by casino tycoon and political funding heavyweight Sheldon Adelson.
While Barton seeks a legal poker framework for online play, Chaffetz is hoping to enforce a blanket ban of online gambling across the nation. RAWA is already on the table in Capital Hill, and if Barton doesn’t push his proposal in that direction soon enough, it could be too little, too late.