American politicians have reportedly reached a deal to pass payroll tax and unemployment benefits extension legislation before taking all next week off to celebrate the one-day Presidents Day holiday. However, Politico has reported that online poker will not be piggy-backing a ride on the legislation. On Wednesday, a “senior Hill staffer” said that federal online poker regulations did not figure in the congressional leadership’s plans as they relate to the payroll and unemployment bills, in part because of expressed opposition from state lotteries and Indian tribes. The deal reached late Wednesday will still need formal approval by a bipartisan House and Senate committee, which could further amend the legislation, but the Hill’s source suggested that “airdropping [online poker] into the payroll bill wouldn’t sit well with a whole bunch of people from a process standpoint.”
Contacted for comment (before the deal was announced late Wednesday), a spokesman for online poker champion Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) confirmed that poker legislation wasn’t to be expected this week, and that the whole payroll/poker connection had not originated from Reid, but from K Street lobbyists. The office of Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), with whom Reid was reportedly crafting his poker legislation, declined comment. However, the Washington Post reported that Reid attempted to attach several unrelated provisions to the legislation that were ultimately rejected by Republicans. And Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is reportedly doing all he can to thwart Reid’s attempts to pass much of anything, after Reid blocked Paul’s attempt to pass legislation that would have punished Egypt over human rights violations. (Anyone else getting an image of kids fighting on a playground yet?)
Speculation now turns to other potential legislative vehicles, such as President Obama’s jobs bill or the bipartisan Cybersecurity Act of 2012, which was introduced into the Senate on Tuesday. One of the Act’s sponsors is Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. Last July, Rockefeller released a paper listing 18 ways the US could close its budget deficit, with online gambling featuring prominently on that list. To heighten the intrigue, Tom Ridge, former Office of Homeland Security chief and current adviser to US land-based casino astroturf lobbying outfit FairPlayUSA, is scheduled to testify before the Senate on Thursday about the new Act. But before you get excited, Ridge will be speaking on behalf of the US Chamber of Commerce, which opposes much of the Act’s contents. Then again, Kyl’s contributions to Reid’s poker bill reportedly focused on strengthening US law enforcement’s hand in dealing with international online gambling companies serving US customers, which could be interpreted as falling under the category of cyber-security, so who knows?