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The Players’ Voice in Washington DC

Rep. Joe Barton on poker as a game of skill, and moving legislation on the Hill

by , Aug 3, 2013 | 7:43 pm

During the past month, Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX) has been on the move in his quest to bring about federal legislation favorable to online poker with an equally favorable revenue component for government.

At the end of June, the Congressman hit the road for his 3rd annual visit to the World Series of Poker—this time, to preview his latest federal legislative bill before introducing it into the U.S. House of Representatives. The official introduction of his newly minted bill H.R. 2666, the Internet Poker Freedom Act of 2013, followed on July 12.

Days later, Barton held a telephone press conference to discuss the new bill which “establishes a program for the licensing of Internet poker by States and federally recognized Indian tribes, and for other purposes.”  The teleconference was attended by media outlets across the country, including this reporter. However, it wasn’t until last week, when I met with the Congressman in his congressional office in Washington, D.C., that I got the complete picture of where he stands on poker and poker legislation. At the end of this day, Barton remains as unclear as anyone on the likely time table for passage of federal legislation to legalize online poker, by the Congress, but he exudes confidence that day will come.

Barton Invokes the President’s Name 
Barton is methodical. He is an engineer by training. He is a seasoned politician. He has held his Congressional seat since 1984. He rates himself as a good amateur poker player. By all accounts from mutual friends, this is an understatement. With a slight twinkle in his eye and a  poker player’s understanding of a well-placed semi-bluff, Barton goes further than mere prediction in stating that he expects President Obama to sign his legislative bill to legalize online poker, if it reaches his desk.

Barton talks the talk at poker tables and he walks the walk around the House in gambits to prod progress on the right online poker bill. He seeks a sensible federal law that will allow online poker in states that are so inclined, under the best conditions for all concerned.

He is also a pragmatist who recognizes the road will not be easy. His latest online “poker only” bill, like the others in which he has been intimately involved, previously, is designed to exempt poker from the category of “games of chance” which are subject to anti-gambling statutes. During our hour-long visit in Washington and a subsequent telephone call, Barton resonated as “the genuine article.”

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