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Joe Barton and Harry Reid combine on the legalisation of online poker
Friday June 10,2011 : UNLIKELY PARTNERS
Joe Barton and Harry Reid differ on many subjects, but may combine on the legalisation of online poker
The recent news that Texas Republican Joe Barton plans a federal initiative to legalise online poker in the United States has been welcomed by many in the industry despite the various individual state drives with similar objectives and an upcoming federal measure from Congressmen Barney Frank and John Campbell.
Fears that it may clash with a renewed attempt by Nevada Democrat Senator Harry Reid were to some extent assuaged this week when Reid acknowledged that he does not always see eye to eye with Barton on other issues, but is prepared to work with him on the legalisation of online poker.
Reid's first run at such a change last year failed to gain traction and failed in the Senate to the disappointment of many.
Barton can also rely on the support of Barney Frank and John Campbell, who told the Las Vegas Sun this week that despite their wider objective of legalising online gambling generally, they would support him. Nevada Representative Shelley Berkely has also indicated an interest.
“I’m co-sponsoring his (bill), I believe he’s going to co-sponsor mine," Campbell told the Las Vegas Sun. "If his moves first, I’ll support him. The resistance is still there, but I think there are some minds that are more open now than they were last year.”
Congressman Frank, regarded by many as online gambling's champion due to his several attempts at legalisation and opposition to the UIGEA, agreed, saying: “I’ll go for the broadest bill possible. We have an extraordinary restriction on people’s freedom right now, so I would support the broadest bill possible ... but I would take something over nothing.”
More support comes from the Poker Players Alliance, which is on record as favouring a federal rather than individual state legalisation of the pastime. Executive director John Pappas lauded Barton's conservative financial credibility this week and clearly favours the Barton approach.
Although be claims to have the qualified approval of his party to launch his legalisation measure, working through the House Energy and Commerce Committee where he is chairman emeritus, Barton is under no illusions that the attempt could face determined opposition judging by the manner in which previous initiatives were greeted by the more conservative factions of the GOP.
The present chairman of the House Financial Services Committee is the Republican Representative for Alabama, Spencer Bachus, one of the most anti-internet gambling politicians in the House. Yet even he appears to be taking a softer line, commenting that he was not opposed to considering Barton’s proposal, but that if there was to be gambling it would have to be regulated.
Barton appears confident that there is sufficient positive consensus in the house to support meaningful change once his bill, which is still a "work in progress," is introduced later this year.
For the millions of Americans who enjoy playing or following poker online, the alignment of political heavyweights such as Reid, Frank and Campbell will be seen as an encouraging development with a reasonable chance of success. Barton has been in Congress since the 'eighties and knows his political craft well, enhancing the likelihood of legalisation.
Speaking for the PPA, John Pappas told the Las Vegas Sun this week: "We think he can bring a very strong coalition of conservative-minded Republicans to support it. He’s respected, not only with the more socially conservative, but the more fiscally conservative caucus within the House, and brings a really credible voice to this issue ... because he understands why regulation makes sense, not only from the perspective of a lawmaker, but also that of a poker player.”
The fact that major US land gambling companies, the AGA and top executives in the land industry have also expressed support for a federal solution to the online poker issue will be an added reinforcement.
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