LAS VEGAS — U.S. Rep. Joe Barton introduced a bill Friday to legalize online poker, hoping to pull the estimated $6 billion industry out of the shadows at a time when its top operators face serious legal troubles.
The Republican lawmaker from Texas told The Associated Press that the bill would let states choose whether they want to allow residents to play poker on the Internet, and operators would be required to already have gambling licenses in at least one U.S. state.
A law passed in 2006 barred financial institutions from processing illegal gambling payments, but many have complained since then that it didn’t explicitly outlaw playing poker and it didn’t define well enough exactly what is illegal.
In April, the Justice Department indicted executives and payment processors of online poker’s three biggest companies — PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker. They’re accused of tricking banks into processing the payments by disguising them as different kinds of transactions. Another indictment against those working for several smaller online poker sites came later.