US Congress

Reid-Kyl Online Poker Bill Forsaken (Harry Reid Throws in the Towel)

Perhaps it was those Southern Baptists’ prayers being answered, but whatever the real cause, it appears that the Reid-Kyl online poker bill is dead for 2012, and perhaps for quite a bit longer.

congress-stepsNews of the death of the Reid-Kyl online poker bill, an anti-online gambling measure that carried only a narrow and perhaps unconstitutional carveout for certain online poker offerings, first appeared in the Las Vegas Review Journal earlier today.  Quoting an as yet unpublished statement from Sen. Harry Reid’s office, the LVRJ credited Reid with stating, “(W)e have simply run out of time in this legislative calendar.”

Added Reid, according to the LVRJ, “I am disappointed, [but Sen. Dean Heller and I] remain committed to this issue and it will be a priority for us in the new Congress.”

The bill’s death had been rumored earlier in the week, after Republican leaders, including bill co-author Jon Kyl, suddenly claimed that they had the votes to pass the bill should it find an appropriate omnibus measure on which to ride.

Reid snorted at that possibility.  In a midweek press conference, Reid stated, “Everyone, listen to this. We suddenly have Republican votes on Internet poker,” he said. “Two weeks before Christmas. Without being vulgar, what the hell would I put it on?”

The bill’s death (for at least 2012) seemed quickly confirmed by the Poker Players Alliance, a major supporter of the bill at the federal level.  The PPA issued the following statement earlier today:

Washington, DC (December 14, 2012) – John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), the leading poker grassroots advocacy group with more than one million members nationwide, today reacts to news reports that Internet poker legislation has “run out of time” for 2012.

“It is an extremely disappointing end to a year where tremendous progress was made. I am most upset for the players, who have been calling on Congress for years to pass an Internet poker law that protects consumers, restores their freedoms and raises revenue. While I don’t think these voices have fallen on deaf ears, I am discouraged that Congress could not coalesce around a solution in the wake of the ongoing fiscal cliff crisis.

“I hope all the stakeholders can put finger pointing aside, learn from this year’s failure, and begin the fight anew for 2013. We are pleased that Senator Reid intends to push again in early 2013 and we will fight with him, but we are mindful that many states will move forward next year and the PPA must be at the forefront of those efforts as well. ”

Now the good news: The Reid-Kyl bill sucked.  Despite a focused effort by its supporters driven through the largest online poker discussion forum, including a paid forum area, the Reid-Kyl bill as written actually had far less support among dedicated online poker players than the PPA often claimed, including one hilariously skewed poll after which the PPA asserted an 85% support level… which was balderdash.

The bill would have criminalized the playing of online poker on unregulated, international sites, this despite the fact that this same playing has been declared legal in several recent instances, including the late 2011 opinion on online poker authored by US Attorney General Eric Holder.  It was that genie that such groups as those Baptists (linked above) and the ultra-right-wing wacko group CitizenLink hoped to put back in the bottle with the passage of the bill, dubbed UIGEA II.

One footnote in passing: It appears that these right-wing organizations, with the cooperation of Kyl, a strident anti-gambling legislator, again had hoped to keep the specifics of Reid-Kyl as secret as possible, until it was attached to a bill too late to be changed, in much the same manner as the original UIGEA was foisted upon poker players in 2006.

This piece in today’s Las Vegas Sun, despite 90% recycling of older news, included one telling section:

Lobbyists point out that lawmakers never actually developed a bill they felt they could peddle around.

Reid and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., were sharing a draft of a poker bill with Sen. Dean Heller as early as last summer. But Kyl insisted the draft not be shared outside of the small group.

Since September, however, the text of that draft has been public. Reid, Kyl and Heller have all expressed confidence that the legislation is adequate to both walk back the 2011 Wire Act reading and address concerns about the security of Internet poker. In public, they continue to maintain it’s only a draft.

This passage alone should clue in the interested reader as to how sucky a bill this one really was.  But who leaked it?  The scuttlebutt generally blamed it on a source inside Sen. Reid’s office, though Reid’s own close relationship with Nevada casinos (who didn’t want the specifics publicized) makes that questionable as well.

Nonetheless, someone did, and poker’s public good was actually served this time, by a bad poker bill not becoming law, rather than a good one getting the nod.

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