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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Barton Bill has Serious Drawbacks for U.S. Online Players

Barton Bill Has Serious Drawbacks for U.S. Online Players

                             By  K. Preston Oade, J.D.   

The purpose of the Barton Bill is to “strengthen” the UIGEA and make internet poker illegal under U.S. law except for U.S. licensed websites. This is clear from the title, the ‘‘Internet Gambling Prohibition, Poker Consumer Protection, and Strengthening UIGEA Act of 2011.”  (Emphasis added). 

The Bill would give the government the law it needs to completely shut down all offshore internet poker sites still accepting U.S. players, a legal power it currently lacks under the UIGEA. See “Black Friday; the DOJ’s Campaign of Fear,” by Oade & Reber, Poker Player Newspaper, (front page, July 18, 2011).     

The Barton Bill defines “internet poker” as a form of “internet gambling” and would make internet poker illegal without a license. It also creates an ongoing list of offshore gambling websites – including poker sites –  targeted for shut down. The intent is to limit U.S. online players to only U.S. licensed websites.  

The Barton Bill would authorize any state or Indian tribe to issue online gambling licenses. The licensed operators, however, may accept bets only from players in the licensing state or “located” in other states that have not given notice of “opting-out” of the Barton Bill. 

If your state opts-out of the Barton Bill, you cannot play on licensed websites, which are required by law to block all bets from opt-out states. All it takes for a state to opt-out is a letter from the governor saying that state residents are not allowed to place bets on U.S. licensed gambling websites. Nobody knows how many states will opt-out. 

Significantly, international players would not be allowed to play on U.S. licensed poker sites. The Barton Bill only authorizes licensed operators to accept bets from players “located in the United States.”  Section 104(a)(1). This is consistent with the provision limiting players on U.S. licensed sites to the licensing state and non-opt-out states. The combination of these two related provisions would have significant consequences for U.S. online players.  

By limiting U.S. licensed sites to only U.S. players in non-opt-out states, the Barton Bill seriously fragments the online market and would isolate U.S. players from international play. We will be playing online with only other U.S. players located in the limited number of states that have not opted-out. This is a relatively small market. 

The market would be further limited by the exclusion of players under age 21, whose bets will be blocked.  Eighteen year olds are old enough to fight and die for their country, but apparently not old enough to play online poker. 

While offshore sites like PokerStars would be eligible for a U.S. license, the Barton Bill does not allow them to accept bets from any non-U.S. players. Thus each offshore site would presumably have to establish entirely separate games just for the U.S. market. This separation of U.S. players from the players of other nations amounts to an Iron Curtain of online poker.   

PokerStars only lost 28% of its total worldwide market as a result of Black Friday. Thus the entire U.S. online poker market is much smaller than the rest of the World. This means fewer games, fewer players, less diversity and less variety of games. And the U.S. online market will be even smaller under the Barton Bill, since many states are likely to opt-out. 

Unfortunately, if you live in an opt-out state, you may have to move to another state that has not opted out if you want to play poker online. You would no longer have the option of playing on offshore sites, which will be shut down completely if the new law works as intended. 

We can do better than the Barton Bill. Even the current situation might be better; and can only improve as online sites still accepting U.S. players expand and others enter the U.S. market to fill the void left by Black Friday. It will happen if we all continue playing online. 

  Preston Oade plays online poker and is a partner in the Denver law firm of Holme Roberts and Owen, www.hro.com.
Comments and questions  to preston.oade@comcast.net

2011 Copyright by K. Preston Oade.  All rights reserved. 


  1. if there going to stop online poker they stop it world wide. usa has the right to play where they want just like international players.
    after balck friday I DO NOT TRUST OUR GOV.
    The Barton Bill is not good for online poker FOR SURE.THAT WILL LEAVE USA WITH THE CRAPY SITES LIKE MERGE NETWORK.

  2. My eyes are bleeding from the colors on this page...Just an FYI. Good article