New Year’s Day 2013 has come and gone, and now it’s back to the grind. Soon, the United States will inaugurate President Barack Obama for a second term, and the next Congress will open for business. Will 2013 be the year online gambling finally gets some face time with legislators at the Federal level?

Don’t hold your breath! :) The only reason online gaming hasn’t been reexamined by Congress is because: 1) There are more pressing matters (Fiscal cliff, debt ceiling negotiations, immigration, gun control, etc.) and 2) Lately, members of Congress are famous for doing a whole lot of NOTHING except collecting their salaries and benefits.

Online gambling had a friend with Rep. Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts who was formerly chairman of the house banking committee. He was pivotal in proposing a 2010 bill to license, regulate, and tax online gambling that actually received the blessing of the Banking Committee and a couple Republican lawmakers. Unfortunately, Democratic leadership never took the bill to the floor for formal debate. Frank has since left Congress and is now retired. Currently, the Republican controlled House of Representatives seems hell bent on making cuts to entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) and it’s safe to say a debate about online gambling is the least of their concerns.

Hope is still alive in Senate. Majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada is already on record creating and supporting a bill to legalize online poker. Obviously this is a nod to his staunch Nevada constituency, where legalized gambling in Las Vegas, Reno, and other resort towns is the state’s lifeblood.

The economic downturn has not been kind to Las Vegas, forcing many casino owners to make cutbacks. Meanwhile, thousands have left the city as mortgages went upside-down and jobs were lost. Americans – and the rest of the world – just don’t have the money to go party in Vegas anymore, and it’s hurt Reid’s state deeply. He views legalized online poker as a potential boon to Nevada and the Federal government’s coffers. If people aren’t going to leave their houses, big casinos can still have a crack at them with legal online poker. Further, Las Vegas would get a much needed boost to its job market, since internet gaming requires IT professionals, programmers, developers, and internet marketers of all levels to succeed.

Reid’s ultimate goal would be to legalize it nationally, allowing every citizen in the country the opportunity to gamble online with a trusted Las Vegas casino brand. No doubt, Native American casinos would jump on this bandwagon, too. Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun of Connecticut have already started chatter about some form of legalized online gambling to boost their dwindling profits. Legalization at the Federal Level would open the doors for casino operators around the nation to “get in on the game”, so to speak.

To be clear, Reid’s bill only sought to legalize online poker. In the complicated legal world of the United States, online poker is considered the least contentious form of gambling up for Federal approval. Lively litigation arguing whether or not poker is game of skill or chance has already been heard in a few United States courts. The general consensus seems to be that poker is indeed a game of skill, and therefore not prone to problems created by other casino based games. If poker goes live, believes legalized online casino gambling will be riding on its coattails.

Sports betting faces the most regulatory hurdles, but if poker and casino games prove to be profitable for the government, a few key legislators might change their minds on its legitimacy as an internet based business. Meanwhile, major sports leagues including the NFL, NBA, NHL, and NCAA are already lining up their lawyers for fights over legalized brick-and-mortar sports betting in New Jersey. Atlantic City is hanging on by a thread, and Republican Governor Chris Christie – in his famously forthright, no bullsh*t style – has said he will take on any legal challenges if there’s a chance New Jersey could improve its economy. While sports betting alone won’t solve New Jersey’s complex fiscal problems, any form of new revenue – big or small – would be welcomed by the state government.

For now, offshore online casinos and sportsbooks continue to operate in a proverbial legal “grey area”. The industry has had its ups and downs, and at the moment, it seems the number of trustworthy online casinos is rapidly decreasing. This is where legalized online gambling in the USA can pick up the slack: most customers would gladly patronize an online Las Vegas based casino over an unknown firm operating somewhere in the Caribbean. This would create a nearly instant injection of new tax revenue, and simultaneously put “the bad guys” out of business. Sadly, legislators in today’s United States government can’t seem to walk and chew gum at the same time. Thinking through the implications of legalizing online gambling carefully should lead most lawmakers to conclude that it can only help the economy, not hurt it. Until then, we remain on standby for the go-ahead!