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Rep. Joseph Abruzzo’s bill to allow intra-state poker is a bad bet for Florida

in Peter/Statewide by

Raise or fold. Any advanced poker player will tell you that those are the only two real options when faced with a big bet. Either your hand is strong enough to win the pot or you don’t belong in the pot. Just calling, or “limping in,” is a sure-fire way to lose money.

Whether or not to raise or fold is the situation the state of Florida finds itself in as it attempts to deal with online poker. Currently, online poker is basically prohibited in the United States. But efforts are underway to establish licensed and regulated intra-state Internet poker in Florida. State Rep. Joseph Abruzzo (D-Wellington) introduced HB 1441 (which I track with LobbyTools), the Internet Poker Consumer Protection & Revenue Generation Act of 2010, a bill to create a state-authorized monopoly for operating an intra-state Internet poker network.

As much as I would like to see online poker legalized, Rep. Abruzzo’s bill is the legislative equivalent of “limping in.”

What does “intra-state” poker mean? Today, when you play online poker you compete with other players from across the United States and the world. Essentially, you are part of a global network of millions of poker players. Under Florida bill HB 1441, your access would become limited to poker games only with other Florida residents. Ultimately, this means fewer players, fewer games, fewer stakes/limits and less opportunity for you to play poker how you want, when you want.

Of equal concern, HB 1441 (which I track with LobbyTools) would seek to eliminate play on the various Internet poker brand-names you know and play with today and replace them with a state-controlled monopoly provider of Internet poker in Florida. So, not only would you have fewer players to test your poker skills against, but you would be forced to play on the state-sanctioned, Florida-only, poker network. From a consumer standpoint this is a definite step in the wrong direction: it limits choice, destroys the competitive marketplace and dramatically reduces the need to provide player incentives like rakeback and bonuses.

To be clear, I am not against state-based licensing and regulation of Internet poker. But I and the Pro Poker Alliance strongly believe that a regulated marketplace will provide a better experience for the Internet player. In fact, that is why the PPA has invested so much time and so many resources to push the U.S. Congress to enact a sensible federal policy of licensing and regulation.

But, what Florida doesn’t need are state proposals like the one being contemplated in the Legislature that seek to cut Internet players off from the rest of the world and limit their choice in the marketplace.

It’s time for Rep. Abruzzo to fold his hand and withdraw this bill.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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