Is Jon Kyl set to co-sponsor Harry Reid’s ‘phantom’ online poker bill?

jon-kyl-harry-reid-billThe New York Post set tongues a wagging on Thursday with its claim that “the smart money” is on Washington politicians successfully passing US online poker legislation before the 2012 presidential election. The Post quotes an unnamed source thusly: “A bill will be proposed by the end of the [Senate] session. There is a 50% chance it will be approved by next year.” To support this assertion, the Post quotes another source that claims Caesars Entertainment’s recently renewed interest in raising cash via an initial public offering was timed to coincide with the arrival of legal US online poker.

This second source’s theory appears to be that Caesars, having already established a Nevada-approved online poker partnership with 888 Holdings, is positioned to take instant advantage of a future US online poker market. The Post’s source appears to believe this development would instantly transform Caesars into a ‘can’t miss’ investment, instead of a casino outfit with $19.6b in debt, zero presence in the world’s two hottest markets (Macau and Singapore) and which lost $467m in the first nine months of 2011. Shazam! That was easy. Can you fix the whole global warming thing next?

rachel mcadams
'Steven, come to bed...' In a minute, dear.
But the Post’s biggest bombshell is the alleged co-sponsor of this new Senate bill. While it’s taken for granted that Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will do his utmost for the casino giants based in his home state, “several sources” told the Post that Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) will add his John Hancock to Reid’s bill. Actually, those sources said Kyl “may” sponsor the bill. (For the record, I ‘may’ have sexual relations with Rachel McAdams tonight. Maybe. Have to see how tired I am.)

Kyl throwing his support behind an online poker bill would indeed be a bombshell, as Kyl has a well-earned reputation as an online gambling nemesis. (Kyl was a key player in passage of the UIGEA in 2006, and Kyl led the charge that killed Reid’s previous attempt to pass poker legislation last December.) There have been suggestions this year that Kyl’s stance had softened somewhat, and he and Reid did co-sign a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to brush back states like New Jersey from bypassing the feds and going the intrastate poker route.

Jon-porterAs further evidence of Kyl’s alleged about face on this issue, Dan Michalski at points to a presentation given by former Nevada Republican congressman and current Poker Players Alliance advisor Jon Porter (pictured right) at last week’s US Online Gaming Law 2011 conference at the Aria in Las Vegas. Michalski posted the audio from that presentation (available here) in which Porter can be heard (around the 19:00 mark) urging attendees to make a concerted and coordinated effort to engage the Republican members of the House of Representatives on the poker issue. “Sen. Reid, yes, he’s our champion, and Jon Kyl’s doing everything he can to help us … but if we don’t engage the Republican House, [legislation is] not going to go anywhere.”

So, huzzah! Kyl’s on board. Up is down, black is white. However, later on in the same presentation (around 30:50), Porter is asked precisely what Kyl is newly receptive to. Porter somewhat cryptically replies that his understanding is that Kyl “is trying not to add any new forms of revenue to the legislation.” Presumably, the legislation Porter’s referring to is the budget-cutting plan scheduled to emerge from the so-called Super Committee (of which Kyl is a member) on Nov. 23, but how this aversion to revenue-generation makes Kyl more receptive to online poker remains unclear.

Porter’s comments are also immediately contradicted by another panelist, noted gaming lawyer I. Nelson Rose, who claims people are reading too much into the Kyl/Reid letter. In Rose’s view, Kyl’s intent was more to preserve a favored spot in the online poker universe for the Indian tribes in his home state of Arizona, which would put him in direct conflict with Reid’s desire to reward his casino cronies. So who’s right? Fucked if we know. All we can say for sure is that this is shaping up to be one anxious holiday season for US poker players. Now, if you’ll excuse me, The Time Traveler’s Wife is calling…