For years, attempts to pass legislation banning Internet gambling at the federal level were stymied by “carve outs” for various other forms of gaming (i.e. the horse racing sector). For nearly a decade, lobbyists representing the Tribes had been successful in preventing such measures from being signed into law. Their interests were typically in stark contrast to that of other groups like the horse racing industry.
This all changed in 2008 when the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) managed to get tacked onto an unrelated “must pass” Port Security Act during the waning hours of that year’s Congressional session. Co-author Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona ensured the bill’s passage as a result.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Kyl is still looking to pass additional Internet gambling prohibition. The Tribes remain as powerful as ever when it comes to lobbying. As always in Washington, it’s about timing.
With a new measure adapted by Kyl and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to further enforce UIGEA while exempting poker, the Tribal casino groups have already asserted their opposition. Like in 2008, the measure is looking for a vehicle in which to attach itself.
“Tribes want to get involved in making sure if that bill does move that amendments sensitive to the concerns of Indian country are adopted and incorporated,” Michael Lombardi, gambling commissioner for the Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians of California, told GamblingCompliance.com.
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“Indian country might support the Reid/Kyl bill if amended. But it’s not acceptable in its current form.”
The Tribes are reportedly working with Reid and Kyl to have certain language changed.
“It’s kind of late in the game,” said John Tahsuda, a principal in consulting firm Navigators Global told GamblingCompliance.
“If you’re Reid, you are already far down the road with what you want the bill to be. You’re not going to change any of that.”
“At this place in the legislative process [Reid and Kyl] are pretty much done. They’re just looking for a place to fold it in,” he said in reference to potential “must pass” legislation floating around during the lame duck session.
The most likely candidate would be proposed Cybersecurity legislation. Unlike the Port Security Act of 2008, Cybersecurity is being met with stiff opposition from outside groups. This is far from a “given” in terms of passage potential.
A bill to prevent the so-called “fiscal cliff” appears to be the most promising option during the lame duck session, however, such legislation is likely to be mulled over with a fine tooth comb to prevent last minute riders or “pork” even if legalized online poker could actually help boost the national economy and contribute to a reduction in debt.
In an ironic twist, the man who helped spearhead attempts to legalize online poker, Massachusetts Democrat Congressman Barney Frank, sat along side the industry’s leading protagonist, Senator Kyl, during a taping of CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning to discuss the state of Congress today and reflect on their decades of service. Frank and Kyl are both retiring at the end of the year. Neither mentioned online gambling during the hour long segment.
- Chris Costigan, Gambling911.com Publisher