Proponents also frame poker as a game of skill, hoping to differentiate it from casino-style games of chance such as roulette or blackjack.
The states, however, have labeled the Reid-Kyl bill as a payoff to Nevada’s casino industry. State lotteries and governors have argued vigorously that they shouldn’t be limited to offering only online poker to their residents.
Steven Grossman, the chairman of the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission, noted in an Oct. 31 letter to Reid and Kyl that the profits from online poker are minimal. He vowed that “attempts to wish the online gaming genie back into the bottle are doomed to fail,” especially given the easy accessibility of international gambling websites.
“Whether you like Internet poker or not, any American with an Internet connection can even today go online and play Internet poker, bet on sports or play Internet casino games,” Pappas said. “The only thing they can’t do is do that on a licensed U.S. site.”
But because the pending legislation would explicitly ban forms of online gambling aside from poker, it could potentially appease social conservatives in Congress who have traditionally opposed the legalization of gambling for religious or moral reasons.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., is considered an opponent of online gambling, as is House Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., who is stepping down from his post at the end of the year because of term limits.
Should proponents of the Reid-Kyl bill be able to sell it as a reduction — rather than an expansion — of online gambling, insiders believe that Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, could be amenable to a deal, provided that Reid is willing to negotiate on other issues.
Reid’s office has been careful to emphasize that the draft bill is not final and that he is still working with all stakeholders to address concerns.
Proponents hold out some hope for action during the lame-duck session, in part because Kyl’s pending retirement could add urgency to his advocacy. Reid could attempt to tie the online poker measure to the cybersecurity bill expected to hit the Senate floor during the lame duck, although the latter legislation is not expected to pass.
“We’re an industry that depends on luck,” Fahrenkopf said, “so we’re going to have to be lucky during this lame-duck session, because there are so many different things on the plate during the next two months.”