Lame Duck: Online Poker's Friend or Foe?

04 October 2012

By definition, lame duck sessions are the remaining tenure of politicians who have chosen not to seek re-election, who have lost a re-election bid, or who have hit the term limit for their office. These officials are often seen as less powerful politically; however, being able to see the light at the end of their political career may give some officials a chance to take a stand on a more controversial or unpopular topic.

Like online gambling, for instance.

The lame duck session for the United States congressional and presidential elections is soon upon us. Come November 5, 2012, we’ll have just shy of two months to see if any additional support can be found for Harry Reid’s online poker bill.

According to American Gaming Association President, Frank Fahrenkopf, Jr, the passage of federal Internet poker legislation will likely “take a little bit of gamblers’ luck” he told the Las Vegas Review Journal.

“We don’t know what the landscape will be like come January,” Fahrenkopf went on in the interview. “It could be much more difficult if we don’t get something done during the lame duck session of Congress.”

To make matters more dire, Harry Reid and Dean Heller, the two Nevada senators who are instrumental in the creation of online poker legislation, are clashing over the bill’s specifics. According to the Las Vegas Sun, Reid has accused Heller of “failing to represent Nevada in the high-stakes effort to protect the state’s gaming industry”.

Reid’s issue is this: As more and more states consider allowing online gaming within their individual borders, Nevada–which leads the country in gambling revenue and industry–is starting to sweat. Diversification and saturation of online gambling is a threat to Nevada jobs and state revenue, particularly as neighboring states, like California, consider the measure.

Reid’s current bill proposes to block all Internet gambling in the United States with the exception of online poker; a game Nevada-based companies are position to successfully provide.

In order to secure the bill’s passage, Reid would need at least 60 Senate votes, a number he is at least 15 votes shy of achieving. Passing the bill through the House seems even less likely, despite Heller’s opinion that the House, not the Senate, should lead poker legislation. Current speculation is that while there are supporters of an Internet poker bill in the House, there are also several powerful–and outspoken–House members who would take (and have taken) issue with legalizing an online version of the popular skill game.

While Nevada may stand to benefit the most from the online poker bill, it still has at it’s heart consumer protection. With a focus on safe game playing and regulation to curb criminal activity, this federal online poker bill would allow for consistent measures throughout the states as well as a revenue source that is largely untouched by the federal government. Instead of proposing their own regulation and maintenance, States could choose to opt into the system by way of majority vote.

With so many States scrambling for funding, one thing is for certain, time is of the essence. And, as we all know so well with this issue, only time will tell.

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