Utah Rep drafts legislation BANNING online poker

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Dec 28, 2011 Posted in Poker News | No Comments »

The pro online gaming community has notched a few recent victories, but the announcement by Utah Representative Stephen Sandstrom (R-Orem) on Wednesday shows that the fight for the right to play online poker in a safe, legal, and most importantly regulated environment is far from over.

On his website Wednesday, Sandstrom announced that he has drafted legislation that would ban all forms of online gaming in the State of Utah, including online poker. Sandstrom seems very up-to-date on the current pro-poker climate, and is looking to preempt possible legislation at the federal level –Sandstrom even brought up the recent Department of Justice decision that the 1961 Wire Act only applies to sports-betting.

Sandstrom is a staunch moral conservative who spearheaded the charge to keep Indian Casinos from setting up shop in Utah back in 2007, and he sees the current climate (and recent legislative victories) as having the potential to bring Indian Casinos into Utah via the online market. The law Sandstrom is referring to is HB 104, which prohibits Indian Casinos in Utah (as well as a number of other vice-like activities), a victory he now sees as potentially threatened should online gaming laws be passed at the federal level:

“We want to keep Utah free from the negative impacts of legalized gambling. Without courageous leadership to block Internet gaming, Utah could once again be forced to allow Indian casinos… The gambling industry profits from the vulnerabilities of its customers and opens the way for states to become further dependent upon tax revenues gained from a form of recreation that hits hardest those who can least afford it.”

If any state in the union were to opt-out of online gaming Utah would be amongst the top candidates for doing so. The extremely conservative state is one of only two US States that does not allow legal gambling in any form. Currently only one state has passed legislation specifically banning online gaming, Washington State.

Sandstrom calls the recent DOJ ruling (which many gaming law experts consider a game-changer, allowing states to draft their own online gaming legislation without fear of stepping on any federal laws—a desperate attempt to jumpstart the economy:

“The U.S. Department of Justice’s conveniently issued legal opinion is a desperate attempt to try and fix today’s recessive economy. It’s clear that President Obama’s fiscal policies have been a complete failure. This latest move by the DOJ will only serve to harm all Americans economically and socially in the long-run.”

If I were a betting man –something you apparently can’t be in Utah—I would be willing to make a substantial wager on Sandstrom’s legislation becoming law in the near future. Fortunately there are 49 other states, and a majority of them are likely to go in the opposite direction from Utah and Washington State.

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