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As Nevada preps online poker regulations, federal lobbyists cash in

TAGs: Caesars Entertainment, Gaming Policy Committee, Interactive Gaming Council, lobbyists, Nevada, Poker Players Alliance

While both of Nevada’s gaming bodies – the Gaming Control Board (GCB) and the Gaming Control Commission (GCC) – scramble to get online poker regulations in place before their self-imposed deadline of January 2012, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is tossing a third regulatory hat into the ring. Sandoval intends to perform CPR on the Gaming Policy Committee (GPC) — which hasn’t convened a proper meeting in a quarter-century — primarily to deal with the uncharted territory that is online gambling. Sandoval hopes the move will “help sketch a roadmap for the journey ahead. We must preserve Nevada’s leadership role in gaming – even in this brave new digital world.” While no date has been set for the GPC to meet, when it does, it will consist of Sandoval, two state legislators, representatives of the GCB, GCC, Indian tribes, five as-yet-unspecified persons appointed at Sandoval’s discretion, and a partridge in a pear tree.

online-poker-lobbying-washingtonNevada’s proposed online poker regulations are specifically designed to remain mere words on paper until the relevant legislation is passed at the federal level. (That sound you just heard was every lobbyist in Washington leaping to his/her feet, sticking his/her hand out.) Lobbying disclosure stats for the third quarter of 2011 have been published on the House of Representatives website, and as always, they provide a good picture as to which companies are truly gagging for regulated US online poker.

Caesars Entertainment was once again the lobbyists’ Daddy Warbucks, spending $868k in Q3, up from $821k in Q2 and $784K in Q1. (Hat-tip to @CKrafcik for the Q1/Q2 comparisons, as these gov’t sites are byzantine enough as it is, and besides, it’s the weekend and our eyes are tired.) By comparison, Las Vegas Sands spent less than $5k in total Q3 lobbying. Clearly, when Sheldon Adelson wants something, he just picks up the damn phone.

Unfortunately, not all of the land-based casino lobbying reports specifically break out how much of their total lobbying spend was devoted to internet gambling. Companies on this list often have many irons they wish to warm in Washington’s fire. For instance, MGM Resorts spent $150k in Q3, but that covered four separate issues, including travel and immigration. Boyd Gaming spent $50k, but some of that was on tribal gaming issues. On the other hand, it can be safely assumed that bwin.party (Pwin) spent its entire $60k on the right to rename itself bwin.party.mgm.boyd.digital.something.or.other.

Similarly one-track-minded, the Poker Players Alliance splashed out $300k in Q3 (down from $390k in Q2 and $420k in Q1) while the Interactive Gaming Council was also down, contributing $230k (from $290k in Q2 and $405k in Q1). The shortfall isn’t a great surprise, as both organizations received a healthy chunk of funding from the companies indicted on Black Friday. Give PokerStars credit for not going quietly, however. The company (via Rational Entertainment Enterprises) gave former Democratic House Majority leader Dick Gephardt’s lobbying outfit $150k to act as their voice on Capitol Hill.

Clearly not wishing to get left behind in any federal scheme, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians racked up a $180k tab purely on internet poker, which is only about $172k more than the Band were previously spending. GTech Corp. spent $110k, while the UC Group, the UK payment processing outfit that counts online gaming companies among its clientele, spent $100k. Churchill Downs Inc. spent $80k, presumably to keep anyone else from encroaching on what the horsey set views as their God-given Congressionally-authorized right to offer online wagering in the good ole US of A. Intralot spent $70k lobbying on internet gambling at the federal level as well as on the feds’ rebellious bastard dependent (the District of Columbia). Other companies making the list include IGT and MacAndrews & Forbes (parent of Scientific Games Corp.).

Now, all that remains is the answer to the question… What exactly has all these millions bought? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

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