THE FIGHT: Titus Toes the Nevada Line

Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV)

Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV)

Summer continues to be a slow season for movement in THE FIGHT to legalize online poker. After last week’s double feature in Congress, the only notable development in Washington this week was a call from Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) for a hearing on online gambling in the House.

“Previous efforts in Congress to create a national legal framework for internet gaming have failed and states have moved ahead of Congress to develop these laws and accompanying regulations,” Titus wrote in a letter to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. “It is important that Congress move quickly to recognize this reality in order to ensure that consumers are protected, while excluding bad actors from participating in the marketplace.”

Titus isn’t staking out new ground here. As a representative from Nevada, she’s beat the federal online poker drum before. During the 2009-2010 Congress, Titus was a co-sponsor of Barney Frank’s internet poker bill and fell in line with the general view of the Nevada caucus in favor of some form of federally regulated online gaming.

Titus wasn’t present for the 2011-2012 Congress, the last time that Barton introduced his bill in the House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made half-hearted attempts at internet poker legislation in the Senate. But this Congress she picked up where she left off in 2010, arguing in favor of federal legislation after Rep. Peter King (R-NY) introduced an online gambling bill in the House a few months ago.

At the time, Titus argued that online gaming needs “a set of strong consumer protection safeguards with sound regulatory oversight to protect against illegal online gambling operations.” Naturally she posited that Nevada was best-qualified to lead the country on the issue.

In short, it’s not surprising that Titus is a vocal proponent of federal legislation on online gambling. She’s doing exactly what you’d expect her to do, even if her letter to the Energy and Commerce committee chair (which you can read here) contains some counterintuitive reasoning on how state-by-state regulation will worsen, rather than enhance, consumer protection. Titus’ request for a hearing neither increases nor decreases the likelihood of federal legislation.

Meanwhile, what of the states that Titus’ letter and last week’s Senate hearing see as the biggest menace to gambling since Bugsy Siegel? There’s been blessed little progress in any state since a spring flurry of activity following passage of online gaming legislation in New Jersey.

In all likelihood, most states will adopt the wait-and-see approach taken by Pennsylvania. New Jersey is expecting to roll out its games by the end of November, perhaps with 2UP Gaming as a brand-new owner of a New Jersey casino property.

How the games fare in New Jersey – and how online poker fares in Nevada if any other operators can get their product through Nevada’s compliance testing – will have an awful lot to say about how THE FIGHT goes in the rest of the country.

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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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