Two Old Men Become Confused, Write Angry Letter

July 20, 2011, Posted by Pokerfarm

Two Old Men Become Confused, Write Angry Letter

Being a United States Senator is a difficult job. Not only do you have to bear the heavy responsibility of serving in the highest deliberative forum of (what Americans call) the greatest country on Earth, devoting your days to staid, sober, devoted contemplation of some of the most complex and significant issues of modern governance, but you also have to remember what your positions on major political issues are. This latter requirement has, apparently, become too great a task for Senators and e-gambling opponents Harry Reid and Jon Kyl.

When the UIGEA passed in 2006 and forbade the processing of payments to and from internet gambling companies, many Americans looked for someone to blame. A deserving target was Republican Senator Jon Kyl, who, with an intimidating singularity of purpose, sponsored no less than four bills seeking to explicitly ban e-gambling in the years prior. He began in 1995 with the ambitiously titled "Crime Prevention Act". When that failed to get out of committee, he tried the more specific "Internet Gambling Prohibition Act" of 1997, which made it ever-so-slightly further through the legislative process before being nixed. Undeterred, Kyl tried once more with another "Internet Gambling Prohibition Act" in 1999, which passed a vote in the Senate before dying. Finally, Kyl narrowed his focus even more to produce the "Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act" of 2003, which also (are you picking up a pattern yet?) failed to become law. Saying “Jon Kyl doesn’t like internet gambling” is a little like saying “Isildur1 doesn’t like folding to three-bets”. He is a one-man anti-gambling crusade.

And that’s why it was so shocking when, in March, Senator Kyl announced on his website that he was willing to consider exceptions for “games like poker” from the general prohibition on internet gambling, on the basis that they involved a large skill element.

Kyl, however, is a paragon of consistency compared to Democrat Senator for Nevada Harry Reid. Reid, who used to be head of the Nevada Gaming Commission, co-sponsored Kyl’s bills seeking to outlaw internet gambling in 1997 and 1999. However, in late 2010 his office authored its own bill seeking to legalize internet poker (what is commonly referred to as the “Reid Bill”). Reid then opted not to propose the draft bill to the Senate, and when, last month, Joe Barton introduced yet another bill to legalize online poker that was closely based on the Reid Bill, Senator Reid himself failed to co-sponsor or pledge support for the initiative.

Finally, to cap off the saga of flip-flopping, last Tuesday Senators Reid and Kyl published an extraordinary letter to the Attorney General in the Las Vegas Sun which lambasted the Department of Justice for not taking more action against online poker and other e-gambling sites in the months and years prior to Black Friday. The letter goes on to argue that even intra-state initiatives, such as Washington DC’s attempts to set up online poker services for its residents, are illegal because any activity on the internet by its very nature crosses state lines and thus breaches federal law. The letter ends with a heart-warming promise to aid the DoJ in increasing penalties for those who breach laws regarding e-gambling.

While Senators Reid and Kyl must be congratulated for not allowing the titanic quantities of cognitive dissonance involved in their alternating support for and opposition of online poker to overwhelm them, their saga of mind-changing and inconsistency is testament to the minefield of special interests and moral arguments any bill seeking to legalize online poker in the US will have to navigate. Whether or not such a task is achievable in the short term remains to be seen.


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