Tuesday March 12,2013 : FEDERAL ONLINE POKER LEGALISATION : JUST POLITICAL TALK?
Whilst Sens. Reid and Heller discuss another legalization run in Congress, industry observers are increasingly sceptical
Rumours of a renewed federal attempt to legalise online poker through the US Congress have been abroad for the past two weeks or more, and on Monday the Las Vegas Sun newspaper reported that Nevada Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller have held discussions on the possibilities.
They may be a little late, bearing in mind that Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada have all put online poker legalization on their law books, and that there are indications that Illinois, Pennsylvania, California and even Massachusetts may soon follow.
Sen. Joe Heck apparently assured the Sun that there was still an element of urgency in getting a federal solution done "sooner rather than later", but the newspaper questioned whether there was "…any substantive, directed process under way to produce a poker bill before it’s too late for federal intervention?"
And apparently the answer to that at the moment is "no", although Nevada lobbyists say there have been non-specific rumours.
After two consecutive years of failure to get a federal online poker bill through Congress, even with the backing of the influential American Gaming Association, the project is clearly fraught with problems, and as the Sun points out, the window of opportunity for 2013 is already closing.
Interviewed by the newspaper, several land industry experts were less than optimistic. Caesars exec Jan Jones commented that the chances were not good beyond June-July.
“At the rate states are moving now, this is not just about the federal bill anymore. It’s not happening in a solo universe,” she told the newspaper. "You’re safer to think it’s in a holding pattern. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t change.”
Other experts opined that as more states legalise, the question of a federal solution becomes moot – there will be too many state systems that would need to be grandfathered into any new federal law.
One possibility that lobbyists are watching for is the reintroduction of Texas Congressman Joe Barton's previously failed online poker legalization bill in the House.
Over at the Senate, which is Reid's preferred point of entry for a bill, there has thus far been little sign of activity on the issue.