THE FIGHT: Hope Springs Eternal – Even When It Shouldn’t

We’re in the dog days of August now. THE FIGHT to legalize online poker will get a respite for a few weeks as state and federal lawmakers adjourn for the summer. That hasn’t stopped some Friends of Poker from racking up a few last media bites.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY)

Rep. Peter King (R-NY)

Notable this week: a call from Rep. Peter King (R-NY) and Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) for co-sponsors for King’s bill to legalize and regulate all forms of online gambling except sports betting. King introduced the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act in early June; Capuano signed on in early July. The bill has garnered exactly zero other co-sponsors.

“With states approaching this issue piecemeal, it can lead to conflicting and inconsistent laws from state-to-state, varying levels of consumer protection, and a perverse incentive for a race-to-the-bottom on standards to attract gaming operators and revenues,” the two wrote in a letter to other lawmakers.

The letter is far too little, far too late. It appears to seek to capitalize on the tiny little buzz generated by a Senate subcommittee hearing two weeks ago on internet gambling, and by the suggestion last week from Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV)that the House should hold a similar hearing.

Any other aspirations are just unfounded optimism. King and Capuano can write all the letters they want. It won’t do any good. A bill to legalize any forms of online gambling than online poker is toxic at the federal level right now. There are far too many competing interests and anti-gambling legislators for such a bill to ever make it out of committee, never mind survive a full floor vote and also be passed by the Senate.

That didn’t stop DoubleDown Interactive’s Director of Business Development, Charles Harper, from predicting at this week’s Casual Connect conference in San Francisco that the federal government would legalize real-money online gambling within one to three years.

“I think that the federal government will eventually do it, but I don’t think they’re feeling a huge rush right now,” Harper was quoted as saying.

Harper didn’t cite any new facts to back up his prediction. Instead he posited that the feds would wait to see how the states approach the issue and then craft its own legislation on that basis.

That seems like the same wishful thinking that took root in the poker community – which would be happy with a poker-only bill, never mind one authorizing all forms of online gambling – two-and-a-half years ago when the first Reid bill leaked. Since then there’s been no progress on poker at the federal level. Other forms of real-money gambling are even farther out of view, making a 1-to-3 year prediction look wildly optimistic.

Like King and Capuano, Harper’s optimism is unlikely to make a lick of difference on the legalization of online gambling in Congress. THE FIGHT might be waged there at some point but it won’t be nearly as soon as anyone thinks.

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Kevin McGrady

Legislative and Politics Beat Writer: Kevin McGrady practiced corporate law in New York City for eight years before moving to Las Vegas in 2008 to join the gaming industry. Kevin is a graduate of New York University and Columbia University School of Law.
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