Florida to Consider Intrastate Online Poker

by Lou on February 3, 2011

With a bill passing both houses of the New Jersey legislature that would make intrastate poker in the Garden State a reality once it is signed into law by Governor Chris Christie, Florida looks like the second state poised to jump on the train.

Florida Rep. Joseph Abruzzo proposed a bill that would allow horse and dog tracks, along with jai-alai frontons, to offer online poker, with a piece of the revenue going to the state.

“Why not,” said Abruzzo, “legalize, regulate and bring in revenue from something that’s already occurring?”

The Poker Players Alliance prefers federal legislation to cover the estimated eight- to 10-million Americans who play online.  Of this total, approximately 400,000 are Floridians who currently play at offshore sites like Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker.

This brings up the ongoing debate between those wanting online poker regulated nationally, and a growing number of states wanting to regulate, tax, and benefit from online poker within their own borders.

That’s not the best way, according to John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, who said, “Internet poker is best for the consumer when you can have a critical mass of players from all jurisdictions and all time zones meeting on a site and playing.”

But Abruzzo, keenly aware of Florida’s interests, said a national bill would not be in the best interest of the Sunshine State.  “If they’d pass it,” Abruzzo said, “we would receive hardly any revenue.”

Under Abruzzo’s bill, as many as three poker sites would serve as hubs and the websites of Florida’s 23 pari-mutuels’ card rooms would act as portals.  Players would click on a pari-mutuel site and go into a pool of Florida poker players. The state would earn 10 percent of each card room’s rake, as it does now in brick-and-mortar poker rooms.

The notion of intrastate poker in Florida has a long way to go before becoming law, but it’s encouraging to see another state following in New Jersey’s footsteps by giving players what they want while finding much-needed state revenue in the process.

Stay tuned. We’ll continue to report on this as Abruzzo’s bill makes its way through Florida’s legislative process.

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