For years, it’s become a common conception that republicans are opposed to regulated online poker in the United States. The fact that Sheldon Adelson, the most adamant proponent of online gambling with billions of dollars in his pocket, is famous for backing republican candidates who support his beliefs on all levels doesn’t help matters. Now that the GOP mid-term elections are done, and the Republicans have swept control in the House and Senate, one big question is looming – What does a Republican controlled House and Senate mean for US online poker?
In reality, there are many republican politicians that do not support the Adelson-back Restoration of America’s Wire Act, which seeks to outlaw any and all forms of internet gambling. The situation for online poker players may seem grim, but plenty of last night’s elected officials are opposed to a blanket ban. In fact, the biggest thing working in the favor of online poker players is the presence of online lottery and horse race betting in certain states.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a perfect example. If Adelson got his way, McConnell’s home state of Kentucky would lose millions of dollars if its online horse racing industry were to be eradicated by the passage of RAWA. In Georgia, the first state in the US to legalize online lottery sales, Republican Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson would oppose an iGaming ban as well. And what about US Senator Dean Heller of Nevada? The Silver state has been in support of internet poker for years and was the first to launch a US regulated, real money online poker site back in April of 2013. Sen. Heller would clearly vote in favor of federal regulation, not against it.
In Massachusetts, the election of new Republican Gov. Charlie Baker over Democrat Martha Croakley was actually a big plus for online poker players. Croakley has publically admonished online poker on several occasions. Although Gov. Baker hasn’t expressed his opinion on internet gaming directly, he did support a casino proposal in Springfield, MA, while strongly opposing a repeal that would have taken away the right to operate three slots parlors in the state. Thus having Gov. Baker in office significantly increases the likelihood of a future regulated online poker market in Massachusetts.
Still, the threat of RAWA’s passage during the ‘lame duck’ session (prior to December) does exist. Democrats will continue to hold the majority until 2015, but the lame duck session presents a real threat for online poker players and states that generate revenue through some form of internet gambling. In 2006, the UIGEA passed through congress in a similar situation, garnering the bare minimum signatures in the wee hours of the night and the autograph of former President George W. Bush soon after. Realistically speaking, if those in power who are opposed to the Restoration of America’s Wire Act are not careful, the same scenario could criminalize online poker and all other forms if internet gambling across the entire United States before anyone realizes what happened.