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The fight over Internet gaming has long been dominated by high-flying groups such as the Poker Players Alliance, but state legislators with a stake in lottery profits are now also laying their cards on the table.
Alarmed by rumors that the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction could look for federal savings in new online gambling rules, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) wrote to the panel’s co-chairmen Thursday to urge them “to oppose proposals to federalize Internet poker and casino gambling.”
New federal gambling rules could jeopardize the $519 million that Maryland’s state lottery pulls in each year to underwrite education and other programs, O’Malley wrote to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), who lead the super committee
Many state legislators and lottery operators object to a bill introduced earlier this year by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) that would end the federal ban on online gambling and federally regulate Internet poker. Cash-strapped state officials fear that new federal rules could rob them of a crucial revenue stream.
The California Legislature passed a resolution last month asking the state’s Congressional delegation to preserve the state’s right to operate its own Internet gambling system. The North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, which represents 52 lottery organizations, has issued a resolution opposing any federal rules that would encroach on states’ right to regulate their own gambling systems. Gaming technology companies, such as GTECH Corp., are also watching closely.
They’re up against influential gambling industry players, including the Poker Players Alliance, which according to the Center for Responsive Politics has spent more than $800,000 on lobbying this year. American Gaming Association lobbying this year has hit $1.2 million, according to the CRP. The players like the Barton bill because it creates uniform standards and, at the same time, gives federal approval to online poker.
In preparation for an Internet gambling hearing Tuesday before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, the Poker Players Alliance is asking gamers to send “encouraging messages” to top subcommittee members via Twitter and Facebook. The group’s website links poker players to a pre-written Twitter message that reads in part: “Please back Rep. Barton’s H.R. 2366 at the 10/25 hearing.”
It’s nothing new that the advocacy industry is moving away from traditional lobbying built around contacts with federal officials and into a broader, more fully integrated business that combines lobbying, public relations and grass-roots policy strategy.