Texas, New York and Nevada Bills Await Online Poker Federal Legalisation

Besides Texas Congressman Joe Barton and New York Representative Peter King presenting online poker legalisation bills in Congress in the quest for a federal solution, also determined Nevada politicians Harry Reid and Dean Heller are pushing a federal bill through the Senate, currently trying to get Republican support.

The Reid and Heller effort is thought to stand a better chance of success now that a few influential Republicans like Jon Kyl (now retired) are no longer available. As an old federal solution campaigner Frank Fahrenkopf of the American Gaming Association noticed: '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 legislation has bipartisan support.'

Fahrenkopf also said the AGA has approached Republican senators from outside of Nevada, whose names he declined to share, about joining the online poker legalisation battle that the group anticipates will be introduced in the Senate.

Jon Porter, a former Republican politician and now a lobbyist, agreed that Reid's bill needs a broader support: "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 two states to help be in the lead. I say the more, the better, for this or any issue.'

As many individual states move towards intrastate legalisation, with Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada all well-advanced with online gambling projects, the federal solution proponents are feeling the raising pressure.

While Senators Heller and Reid were working on a new initiative, with Heller seeking support as recently as last week, at the same time one of the Peter King's aids, Kevin Fogarty, has announced that "Rep. King plans on introducing his legislation to the federal House next week."

It is not yet clear whether it will be an online poker only measure or something wider. However, if King is offering more than online poker, he will likely encounter resistance from the AGA. Fahrenkopf confirmed this, saying: '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.'

In the past individual state officials, including the National Governors Association, were against Sen. Reid's online poker bill, and they will likely lobby against federal efforts too.

James Ward, committee director for the National Conference of State Legislatures, explained: '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.'

Expressing the opinion of his colleagues, who opposed the previous Reid online poker bill, Charlie McIntyre, executive director of the New Hampshire Lottery, said they would all like to hear from lawmakers before moving forward on Internet gambling legislation.

'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.

Underlining the importance of casinos, racetracks, Native American tribes, and state lotteries unified efforts in a federal bill success, lobbyist Jon Porter concluded:

'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.'

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