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Internet Poker Largely Irrelevant In Presidential Race

Obama Muddled, Romney Against And Johnson Supportive


Despite Black Friday grabbing national headlines in April 2011, online gambling, and poker specifically, has not been a significant issue in presidential politics this election cycle.

With other issues, such as the economy in a systemic crisis and heavy, violent involvement in the Middle East, this type of Internet business has largely been an after-thought and arguably irrelevant for the Barack Obama and Mitt Romney camps.

Even though Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) are backing an effort to legalize web card playing, a federal bill is not necessary in order for states to move forward with the idea, although it seems likely it would speed the industry along. Nevada casino giants prefer a federal bill, but they are aggressively hedging their bets with intrastate models.

Individual states — Nevada and Delaware — have already authorized the business. Others are expected to follow in 2013, leading the way for potential state compacts.

Legalizing online gambling is also a highly contentious proposal on Capitol Hill, not only because many politicians object to the very idea of it, but also because it’s nearly impossible to come to a compromise with all the casino and lottery interests that would be affected.

In other words, there’s little indication that there won’t be big winners and big losers as a result of anything the Reid-Kyl bill or Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-TX) plan puts into law.

Romney did briefly address the issue when asked about it by Las Vegas political journalist Jon Ralston. The interview came before Romney received the GOP nod.

Romney told Ralston that he wouldn’t be supportive of legalizing web gambling as president.

“Gaming has a social effect on a lot of people,” Romney said. “I don’t want to increase access to gaming. I feel that we have plenty of access to gaming right now through the various casinos and establishments that exist.”

In response to the Obama Justice Department’s relaxed stance on intrastate web gambling, the Republican platform announced in August that it wants to reverse the December 2011 legal opinion on the 1961 Interstate Wire Act.

The Democrats didn’t address the issue at their national convention held in September.

Although his administration finds it OK at the state level, President Obama himself has not addressed the idea of legalization at the federal level.

Then there’s former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, from the Libertarian Party, who maintains that he would be supportive of web gambling. He wants small-time government.

He wrote on his website that “the federal government should not be involved in restricting lawful commerce that doesn’t hurt anyone.”

Johnson, on the ballot nationwide, doesn’t stand a chance to win, but even if he were to be elected federal online poker legislation would still hinge on Congress. If past sentiments are any indicator, such a proposal faces a daunting task of making it through. Some gaming industry insiders are so pessimistic that they don’t see one ever coming to fruition.

The president’s stance on federally authorized Internet gambling could, in some sense, be meaningless because a law authorizing it might not ever reach his desk.

Follow Brian Pempus on Twitter — @brianpempus

Tags: Online Poker,   Obama,   Romney,   Johnson