For the fourth consecutive presidential election, Republicans have included a clause in the GOP platform, seeking to prohibit Internet poker.
On page 32 of the platform, under a section titled "Making the Internet Family-Friendly," the text reads: "Millions of Americans suffer from problem or pathological gambling that can destroy families. We support the prohibition of gambling over the Internet and call for reversal of the Justice Department’s decision distorting the formerly accepted meaning of the Wire Act that could open the door to Internet betting."
The inclusion is clearly a victory for the right-wing religious groups over the poker lobby.
"We were hoping they’d just remain silent on it this year," said Rich Muny, vice president of player relations for the Poker Players Alliance. "We thought there was a decent chance they would just let it go and not speak on the issue at all. I hadn’t heard it mentioned at the convention. But it’s very difficult to get something removed when it’s on the previous platform."
A month ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told the Las Vegas Sun that the only way an online poker bill could get done is if it gets the Republican votes.
It’s hard to project the votes being there in time for Reid to make a push for legislation during the lame-duck session three months away when the Republican platform is against it.
Hope remains in that the statement in the platform fits with the perspective of Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who is now said to be working with Reid in pushing for a bill that would allow for the licensing and regulation of online poker. Kyl realized that the only way he was going to get legislation passed to prohibit most forms of Internet gambling before he retires from office at the end of the year was to compromise on regulating online poker.
He also realized, as a judge ruled in New York last week, that the skill required differentiates poker from other forms of gambling. Kyl and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) have their work cut out for them over the next three months to convince fellow Republicans that it will be beneficial even to the family-values crowd for Internet poker to be regulated.
Of course, the Republican platform was never going to include poker licensing. But the section definitely could have been worded better.
"It would have been nice if it specified shutting down casino games of chance or something like that," Muny said. "As is, what’s being talked about as happening in the lame-duck session wouldn’t necessarily violate the platform’s provision."
Muny gave poker players a spot to voice their opposition of the platform’s stance to Republican leadership. His submission to the official GOP platform 2012 site is the most popular idea under job creation. Muny said he submitted the idea three weeks ago but it wasn’t posted until Tuesday.
If the Republicans want to strengthen the Wire Act, a Reid-Kyl bill in the lame duck is the easiest way to get it done.
"I think it’s kind of a silver lining that any call for action is probably good," Muny said. "If something goes through on gaming, poker will be in it. If something goes through trying for a prohibition, we have a strong case to get a carve out added on poker. It will be really challenging if they are hoping to get a straight ban through there."
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