Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Chad Beynon issued a report on Friday warning investors that the failure of Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) to attach online poker language to the payroll tax cut extension has ‘most likely’ extinguished hopes of federal online gambling legislation passing in 2012. If Beynon’s forecast is accurate, it would mean a lot of teeth-gnashing in the boardrooms of major US land-based casino companies (except Las Vegas Sands). Caesars Entertainment, in particular, has essentially dovetailed its return to profitability with being able to offer federally regulated online poker to US residents. Now what?
While online poker legislation initially appeared to have more momentum at the federal level this year, there still doesn’t seem to be the political will to push the bastard over the top. Then again, there may be other elements at play. Last August, after California inexplicably opted to defer their white-hot online poker debate to the next legislative session, CalvinAyre.com contributor I. Nelson Rose remarked that the “unnecessary delay” had an ulterior motive: keeping the online gaming lobbying cash flowing into politicians’ reelection war-chests.
Need proof? Newly published figures from Florida’s (also deferred) recent push for destination casinos reveal that Sunshine State pols really enjoy talking to gaming lobbyists. In 2011, Genting’s Florida lobbying spend amounted to $760k, while Associated Industries of Florida (a business group backing casinos) anted up $690k. Other deep-pocketed contributors included Las Vegas Sands ($551k) and the state’s Seminole Tribe ($420k). Casino opponents Walt Disney and the Florida Chamber combined for another $400k. Righteous bucks, as Jeff Spicoli once observed, and a pol doesn’t even have to follow through to collect.
Speaking of lobbyists, if the prospects for federal poker regulation are truly dead, no one seems to have told FairPlayUSA, the grassroots/astroturf lobby group whose principal funding stems from Caesars and MGM Resorts. Two of FairPlayUSA’s hired guns, former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge and FBI agent/US attorney/federal judge Louis J. Freeh, just dropped a co-authored op-ed in the Washington Examiner titled New internet gambling law needed now. In case you had any doubts, the gist of the piece is that federal regulations are the only way to go because individual states simply aren’t capable of effectively enforcing any online gambling legislation they might enact. The dynamic duo also think it would be nice if Congress would amend existing anti-gambling legislation to “unambiguously define” what aspects of online gambling would be prosecutable, i.e. not having the word Nevada appear somewhere on your business card.
Ridge will also be touting the Nevada casino party line during an online webinar on March 1 at 11am EST. Joining Ridge in presenting Online Gaming: The New US Landscape will be Ropes & Gray attorney David O. Stewart, who has prepared a few American Gaming Association white papers on online gambling. AGA president Frank Fahrenkopf will act as moderator/straight man. The focus of the discussion will be the US Department of Justice’s revised opinion on the scope of the Wire Act, and how it “seemingly” paved the way for intrastate online gambling. Naturally, you’d be a damn fool for even thinking that, when the reality is that the opinion represents a clarion call for federal regulation. Registration for the webinar/federal regulation infomercial – brought to you by the good folks at Global Gaming Expo (G2E) – is free (register here).