Sunday June 2, 2013 : THREE FEDERAL BILLS LINING UP FOR ONLINE POKER LEGALISATION (Update)
Nevada politicians have not abandoned their ambitions yet – but Republican support is critical
Aides for Texas Congressman Joe Barton and New York Representative Peter King have confirmed that both will be presenting online poker legalization bills in Congress in the quest for a federal solution, the latter perhaps submitting his proposal as early as next week according to some reports, but over the weekend a well-informed Washington newspaper reported a third attempt.
The Hill claims that Nevada politicians Harry Reid and Dean Heller are still determined to push a federal bill through the Senate (Reid has twice failed, mainly due to the Nevada-centric nature of his previous efforts) and the duo are currently trying to garner Republican support.
A bi-partisan effort is thought to stand a better chance of success in a political environment where the support of influential Republicans like Jon Kyl (now retired) is no longer readily available.
Old federal solution campaigner Frank Fahrenkopf of the American Gaming Association – himself on the threshold of retirement – told The Hill: “That's important to do. We want to make sure that this is not Nevada-centric. It's important to find someone who sees the wisdom of going forward with the federal bill. It just makes sense that this important legalization has bipartisan support.”
Fahrenkopf said the American Gaming Association has been talking to Republican senators from outside of Nevada about joining onto legalization to legalise online poker that the group anticipates will be introduced in the Senate.
Fahrenkopf declined to share the names of the senators who have been approached.
Former Republican politician Jon Porter, now a lobbyist, agreed that broader support was necessary for any Reid bill, saying: "This is a national issue, not just a Nevada or a New Jersey bill, so the conventional wisdom is we need someone outside of the states of Nevada and New Jersey to help be in the lead. I say the more, the better, for this or any issue.”
Federal solution proponents are feeling the pressure as individual states move towards intrastate legalization, with Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada all well-advanced with online gambling projects, and as many as ten other states looking at various options
A Heller aide confirmed to The Hill that the Senator and Sen. Reid were working on a new initiative, with Heller seeking support as recently as last week.
New York Republican Representative Peter King appears to be ready to introduce his measure to the federal House next week, although it is not yet clear whether it will be an online poker only measure or something wider.
One of his aides, Kevin Fogarty, told the newspaper: “Rep. King plans on introducing his legalization next week,” promising more details will be available then.
If King is offering more than online poker he will likely come up against resistance from the American Gaming Association, whose land casino members are largely on board for internet poker but not online casino gaming.
“If it is more than online poker, we would take it to our board and let our board make a decision on whether to support it or not,” Fahrenkopf said.
The Hill recalls that in the past individual state officials, including the National Governors Association, pushed back against Sen. Reid’s online poker bill, and they will likely lobby again against federal efforts to regulate online gambling.
“We believe the federal government should be respectful of states' rights to regulate online gaming, and we see these bills as an affront to states' sovereignty,” said James Ward, committee director for the National Conference of State Legislatures.
State lottery directors also opposed the previous Reid online poker bill, and lobbied against it. Charlie McIntyre, executive director of the New Hampshire Lottery, said his colleagues would like to hear from lawmakers before they move forward on Internet gambling legalization.
“We would like to have been part of the conversation before it became an issue last year. And we would like to be part of that conversation if this becomes an issue again this year,” said McIntyre, who is also head of the government relations committee for the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.
Lobbyist Jon Porter had the last word, saying that casinos, racetracks, Native American tribes and state lotteries need to unify if a federal bill is to succeed.
“The industry needs to be on a similar page and start working together. It's a highly competitive industry, so they won't agree on every point, but they do need agree on the same set of principles. Without that, moving this bill will be tough to do,” Porter said.