THE FIGHT: Reid and Kyl Cause Impasse, D.C. Lobbying Efforts Continue

On Capitol Hill, Senate leaders have reached an impasse on whether to move forward with their Internet poker push. Last week, the National Journal reported that Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Minority Whip Jon Kyl could not agree on a strategy to move their draft bill, which would authorize poker while tightening restrictions on other forms of Internet gambling. Reid, for his part, believes the Senate should take the bill up first, but Kyl believes the House should be first to act on it. In an interview with the Journal, Kyl warned that the Republican-controlled House will be unlikely to support any bill Reid pushes through the Senate first. “If Reid just tries to force something through the Senate with poker in it, the House is gonna figure they’re being jammed,” he said.

Another quarter, another three-million-and-change spent lobbying Internet gambling issues in Washington. According to my estimates, over 60 special interest groups forked out around $3.85 million to lobby Internet gambling bills in the three-month period ended June 30, 2012. That amount was largely unchanged against the prior quarter. Yet again, Caesars Entertainment was the biggest spender by some distance, accounting for nearly a quarter of total spend. Other notable spenders included PokerStars, which retains former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt as its chief lobbyist, and the Poker Players Alliance, to which PokerStars contributes. For context, $7.6 million might sound like a lot of dough, but on the Hill, it just ain’t. According to OpenSecrets.org, 16 special interest groups have each spent more than $7.7 million lobbying various issues during the first half of this year.

In New Jersey, where the legislature has just returned from its summer break, an Internet gambling bill is back in play. But Democratic state Senator Raymond Lesniak, the bill’s primary sponsor, told GamblingCompliance.com that Republican Gov. Chris Christie remains on the fence about whether to endorse the new bill. “Not sure where we are going because Christie hasn’t said if he’s supporting Internet gaming,” Lesniak said. In March 2011, Christie vetoed Lesniak’s previous Internet gambling bill.

National regulatory update: Internet gambling legislation is pending in New Jersey (poker and casino gaming) and Congress (poker, casino gaming and lottery). Internet gambling is legal in Delaware (games T.B.D.), Nevada (poker) and the U.S. Virgin Islands (games T.B.D.). Nevada has begun issuing Internet poker licenses while Delaware, which legalized Internet gambling in June, is in the process of drafting regulations. Internet gambling legislation in California (poker) recently died.

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