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Florida Lawmakers to Tackle Online Poker Issue

Florida’s legislative session began yesterday, and one of the big topics this congress is expected to tackle is Internet poker regulation and legalization. There’s a bill facing lawmakers in the Sunshine State that could see online poker implemented by July 1.

Of course, like in New Jersey, Iowa, and California, the motives are financial: “A Senate committee report last month estimated net revenue of almost $37 million by the third year of regulated poker,” explains Bob Rathgeber for the News-Press.

“State Rep. Joseph Abruzzo said a gaming company that studied the issue estimated even more revenue. There are 900,000 Floridians registered to play online poker, and a third of them play for money,” Rathbeger continues. Florida is currently facing a deficit of nearly $4 billion.

Local business only
Under the proposal in Florida, local gaming parlors like the Daytona Beach Kennel Club and Poker Room would be benefit from Internet poker regulation. Dog and horse tracks and “jai-alai frontons” would be able to “create portals to legal online poker rooms,” explains Tom Knox at the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “The state would get 10 percent of each card room’s revenues, the same amount it gets now from live poker rooms.”

The bill allows up to three websites to be licensed as hubs for the Internet poker services, with Florida’s 23 pari-mutuels’ card rooms acting as portals. “Players would have to navigate to one of the websites to play with a pool of other Florida players,” Knox continues. “The company that runs the hubs would take a little bit from each pot and give it to the card rooms.”

That means no non-Floridan companies would be allowed — so no PokerStars and no Full Tilt Poker, the two biggest online poker rooms.

“What we believe is the opportunity should be available to those who qualify to try to get regulated, and if regulators decide that they’re the best ones to offer services, they should be able to offer it,” said John Pappas, PPA executive director. “It shouldn’t be a decision made in the legislature.”

Bad for poker affiliates?
Salo Steinvortz of the Central Florida Future talks to a student who regularly plays online poker:

“If anything, this bill could affect students negatively in that it’ll make it harder for us to play online,” the student said. “Because we would have to go through all these state rules, in the end, it’ll be the state that determines when and where we would have to play, but the bill wouldn’t decrease gambling at all.”

The standard rules of poker affiliate marketing wouldn’t be allowed in Florida under the bill. Instead, marketers wishing to work in the Florida market would have to work with the local portals, and it’s not at all likely that a viable poker affiliate marketing model would be available at all.