Washington, DC (February 9, 2011) – Patrick Fleming, Litigation Support Director for the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), the leading poker grassroots advocacy group with more than one million members nationwide, testified today before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DoJ) recent change in policy regarding the scope of the Wire Act and its resulting impact on Tribal gaming.
Fleming began his testimony noting that the PPA supports a robust, competitive, regulated interstate market in which tribal gaming interests are vital players. However, he said, “the change in DoJ policy regarding the scope of the Wire Act is likely to have far-reaching effects for the future of online gaming and may place Tribal gaming operators at significant disadvantages with respect to other gaming operators. Current State law does not lend itself to easy answers when one poses a question regarding the legality of a specific Internet gaming activity.”
To ensure Tribal interests are represented as lawmakers consider the future of State online gambling, Fleming noted that it is imperative that the committee consider what games will be allowed and whether Tribal operations will be able to compete in the offerings of those games.
Fleming continued, “it is clear that there will be far less impact on Tribal gaming operators if new State gambling laws are limited to games such as poker. According to the 2010 Spectrum Study prepared for the National Indian Gaming Association, Tribal poker operations account for only one percent of Tribal gaming revenue and thus any change in this market is not likely to have profound effects on Tribal gaming operations.”
In outlining the challenges for Tribes in competing with State-run entities Fleming said, “the law currently states that Tribes are limited to offering games ‘on Tribal Land’ but with respect to online gaming it is likely that the courts would consider that the games are not being offered solely on Tribal land. Thus the Tribes would not have the protections under IGRA and would need state government permission to offer online games to those outside Tribal land.“
Fleming highlights three issues that must be addressed in terms of Tribal gaming interests:
- Whether the IGRA must be updated to provide Tribes with the same rights as States
- Whether Federal legislation would better protect Tribes by allowing only class 2 social games like poker to be conducted over the Internet
- Whether Federal legislation should be implemented to ensure protection of Tribal interests through unregulated interstate competition.
In concluding his testimony, Fleming noted the effects on Tribal gaming “will depend upon the decisions made by the various States with respect to future laws regarding Internet gambling and on whether the Federal government acts to establish a new national policy with respect to Internet gambling.”
A full copy of the testimony can be found here.