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    What’s at stake for online poker based on the 2012 Senate election in Nevada?

    Posted by Marco Valerio September 22, 2012

    New poll shows candidates Dean Heller and Shelley Berkley are very closely tied going into the November election. Both have supported online poker, but in different ways.

    One of the U.S. Senate elections taking place in November of this year pits incumbent Nevada Senator Dean Heller (Republican) against his Democratic challenger, Nevada Representative Shelley Berkley.

    According to the latest Rasmussen poll, the candidates are virtually tied. 42% of “likely Nevada voters” favor Heller, versus 41% for Berkley. (A sizable 12% remain undecided, with 4% preferring another candidate.)

    The poker community, even outside of Nevada, has some knowledge of Dean Heller, in part because of Two Plus Two’s official endorsement of him. But it would be unfair to paint Heller as the sole pro-poker candidate, when Berkley has a long and respectable history of standing up for online poker, long before Heller did.

    Online poker is actually in an atypically plush position in Nevada politics because practically every politician here, Republican or Democrat, is in support of it. In fact, in Nevada, you’re actually uncool if you don’t support online poker. This is because, like I wrote last month, real online poker progress at the legislative level is rooted in issues of job and revenue creation (as opposed to “values”), as evidenced by the words Shelley Berkley recently used to criticize Heller for the Reid fuck-up.

    Heller was not even a member of Congress when Berkley, a Representative since 1999, was already going to bat for the online poker community in 2006, being one of the exceptionally few legislators to vocally oppose the absurd attachment of the UIGEA to the Safe Port Act. Watch how Berkley told the House, just before the eventual passage of the act, that a ban on Internet gaming in a defense bill was “ridiculous.”

    Berkley went on to demonstrate even bolder bipartisan support for online poker by volunteering as one of the main sponsors of Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-TX) online poker bill in 2011 (HR 2366). Unlike the Reid/Kyl bill we wrote about last week, not only would the Barton bill opt in all states upon passage, but in its current form, it does not even explicitly disqualify international player pools or post-UIGEA U.S.-facing operators like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. (The Reid bill, on the other hand, does.)

    Dean Heller is supposed to be a begrudged favorite by the poker community because it is believed that he, unlike Berkley, could play a fundamental role in the Senate as a bipartisan intermediary in order to get some badly needed Republican support for Reid’s bill. If Berkley were to bump Heller in the election, then Reid would have to find someone else to fulfill that important role, and it’s not easy to find enthusiastic pro-online gaming Republican senators outside of Nevada.

    Even though I prefer the more liberal provisions of the Barton bill that Berkley supported in the House, it’s unlikely (although not impossible) that she would go out of her way to insist on these if she became Reid’s partner in the Senate. It seems like Reid’s bill more than Barton’s (who represents Texas) is dictated by Nevada casino interests, and if they want to ring-fence the nation along with player balances, that will be a hard compromise for any Nevada politician to challenge.

    Therefore, assuming an otherwise apolitical attitude, a vote for Dean Heller might make sense, but only if you feel comfortable empowering Harry Reid’s specific vision for online poker in this country. With that said, the relationship between Harry Reid and Dean Heller has recently collapsed precipitously, with Reid accusing Heller of failing to deliver Republican support, while Heller claims the two had since agreed to stimulate House action first. It did not get any prettier when Jon Kyl weighed in.

    The last best hope for the introduction of the Reid bill at this point is this year’s lame-duck session, during which Dean Heller will remain an acting senator whether he wins or loses. It’s not like any online poker effort is dead starting in 2013. It’s just that the outcome of the November election might alter the Congressional landscape in ways that could fundamentally destabilize the status quo Harry Reid has been counting on to pass his bill. Jon Kyl’s retirement from the Senate after this term, and with it the loss of the Republican Whip as a key ally to Reid’ efforts, is just one example.

    A win over Berkley would propel Heller into the new Senate where he may continue to exercise his role as bipartisan intermediary, as long as serious online poker discussions continue. But would it also embolden him during the lame-duck? Or, inversely, is a Heller defeat just what he needs to hurry into action before he is shown the door in January? It’s hard to say, especially if the parties don’t even resolve their dispute over whether to start in the House or Senate.

    QuadJacks does not officially endorse any candidate. We will continue to examine the political implications for poker in the weeks leading up to the November election.

    To learn more about the campaigns of either Dean Heller or Shelley Berkley, see the links underneath.

    Dean Heller Senate Webpage | Dean Heller Campaign Webpage
    Shelley Berkley House Webpage | Shelley Berkley Campaign Webpage

    QuadJacks - Saturday, September 22, 2012

    About Marco Valerio

    View all post by Marco Valerio

    There are 4 Comments

    1. - September 22, 2012
        -   Reply

      Very interesting take, can’t say I disagree at all with your assessment. I completely oppose Reid’s version of online poke . . . virtually all gifts for Nevada casinos and as near as I can tell, almost zero explicit consumer protection. It’s still government and big business cutting up the pie, and taking the consumers, that is “We the people” for granted.

    2. Zekday0
      - September 24, 2012
        -   Reply

      Good points Curtis, government and big business working on this seems only fitting!

    3. Pingback QuadJacks | Online poker finally comes up during Dean Heller and Shelley Berkley debate (TRANSCRIPT)

    4. Pingback QuadJacks | Incumbent U.S. Senator Dean Heller defeats Berkley, Reid/Kyl bill gets a lifeline.

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