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Online Poker Takes a Few Steps Closer to Reality

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The debate over online gaming, poker in particular, has been raging since the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was passed in 2006. But there have been a few recent developments that take online poker a few steps closer to reality. Upcoming budget debates, as Republicans have resisted tax increases, may be just the opening a few key members of Congress need. And a little added revenue from online poker could make both sides of the aisle happy.

Here's what's happened recently:

  • Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has been leading the charge in Congress for legalizing online poker, but he's recently gotten help from republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas. It's with the Energy and Commerce Committee -- of which Barton is the chairman -- where a bill may get its start in Congress, and Barton intends to bring it up.
  • Nevada passed a bill that will allow Internet poker if/when the federal government approves it. Nevada has made no secret about wanting to be the hub for online poker if it is legalized.
  • All indications are that companies operating illegally over the last five years will be kept out of the market, for at least a period of time. That's bad for Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars, but it would allow gaming companies to establish a presence.

Winners and bigger winners
I don't doubt that MGM Resorts (NYSE: MGM  ) and Caesars Entertainment would attract a large number of players to their online poker rooms. They own some of the strongest brands in gaming including MGM, Bellagio, Caesars, and Mirage, and their rewards programs would draw in customers.

But keeping established online poker companies out might give Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS  ) and Wynn Resorts (Nasdaq: WYNN  ) a chance to establish a place in the market before online rivals join in. As much as Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson may hate each other, it may even be smart for them to partner on a site since they target many of the same customers, although that's probably a pipe dream.

Smaller operators like Boyd Gaming (NYSE: BYD  ) , Penn National (Nasdaq: PENN  ) , Ameristar Casinos (Nasdaq: ASCA  ) , and Isle of Capri Casinos (Nasdaq: ISLE  ) may have to band together to make a formidable opponent to bigger operators. But any slice of this pie would be a bonus for them.

Will it happen or not?
As fellow Fool Morgan Housel pointed out poker is primarily a game of skill, and the existing ban doesn't take that into account. The question now becomes: Will an online poker bill pass? Let us know what you think.

Fool contributor Travis Hoium has sold put options in Las Vegas Sands. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.

Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (5) | Recommend This Article (8)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On June 16, 2011, at 1:20 AM, sajeffe wrote:

    I am looking forward to online poker being licensed and regulated in the U.S. Since the big casino corporations don't have to worry about PokerStars and FullTilt anymore, they're probably working quickly to produce their own software and infrastructure for when legislation passes. With Harry Reid bought and paid for, and the big offshore companies out of the way, let's get on with it already!

  • Report this Comment On June 16, 2011, at 1:26 AM, MonkeyMofo wrote:

    This is great news. Americans should have the freedom to play poker in their homes, and the government needs the money. The shutdown of the major online poker sites on 4/15/2011 was a sad day. It's good to see things turning around.

  • Report this Comment On June 16, 2011, at 2:24 AM, FreeToPlay wrote:

    I hope this gets done. I am tired of people around the world laughing at the US being called the land of the free when we can't play a game of poker in the privacy of our homes against other players in the privacy of their homes. Let freedom ring!

  • Report this Comment On June 16, 2011, at 5:40 AM, ShallowGravy wrote:

    This kind of legislation is a win/win/win.

    The American people win because they are allowed more freedoms previously taken away by our government. People in rural Texas will be able to play Texas Hold'Em again.

    The Government wins because they're going to make an insane amount of tax money with practically no investment or maintenance costs. And they get to look good by protecting consumers and expanding personal freedoms of responsible consenting adults.

    American Businesses win. This is obvious, they are allowed to run their business over the internet, creating tens of thousands of new jobs, and giving their shareholders a huge new revenue stream with practically no overhead compared to traditional poker rooms.

  • Report this Comment On June 16, 2011, at 11:42 PM, moneyfunnel wrote:

    I really hope we can all work together to pass online poker legislation. It would be a big win for the poker playing public, a restored freedom to Americans and a job creator as well as generate tax revenue.

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