A plank in the Republican platform, approved earlier this week at the party’s national convention in Tampa, Fla., calls for a “prohibition” on Internet gaming and reversing December’s re-evaluation of the Federal Wire Act.
The language – listed under the heading “Making the Internet Family-Friendly” – goes against the position taken by most of the gaming industry and of the state’s Republican elected leaders.
Gov. Brian Sandoval, who addressed the Republican Convention on Tuesday, said he doesn’t support the platform language.
“We’re not going to agree on everything,” Sandoval said. “Nevada has always set the gold standard in gaming, and online gaming is the next frontier for the industry. Our state supports online poker and will continue to work to ensure a secure online gaming environment.”
Republican Sen. Dean Heller was campaigning in rural Nevada and unavailable for comment. Campaign spokeswoman Chandler Smith said, “Regardless of any language contained in a document voted on back in Florida, Dean Heller will always do what is in the best interest of Nevada.”
Many of Nevada’s major casino companies are asking Congress to pass a bill that legalizes and regulates Internet poker nationally. Gaming experts believe Nevada could be the center of a regulated Internet gaming market.
Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson, who has donated more than $30 million to Republicans during the current election cycle, is the most prominent gaming executive to oppose legalizing Internet poker.
But this is not the first time the national GOP platform has included a plank against Internet gaming, although the wording was changed this year to mention the Federal Wire Act of 1961.
The U.S. Department of Justice on Dec. 23 reversed a 50-year-old interpretation of the Wire Act, saying the law covers only sports wagering. Legal experts said the decision frees individual states to let online operators offer poker and other casino games if the play doesn’t cross state lines.
“We support the prohibition of gambling over the Internet and call for reversal of the Justice Department’s decision distorting the formerly accepted meaning of the Wire Act that could open the door to Internet betting,” the platform stated.
Authors of the platform plank linked Internet gaming with gambling addiction.
Internet poker proponents worry the official GOP stance could halt current legalization efforts in Congress, including a resolution authored by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas.
“The 2012 GOP platform on Internet gambling is grossly out of touch with the opinions of the party’s own elected officials,” said John Pappas, executive director of the Washington D.C.-based Poker Players Alliance. “Instead of broad political statements, now more than ever, Americans expect Congress to finally put the political posturing aside.”
American Gaming Association President Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., who has overseen the industry’s lobbying on Capitol Hill, declined to comment on the platform. Fahrenkopf was chairman of the Republican Party from 1983 to 1989.
Several observers said the platform is often ignored by candidates.
“We think the party’s manifesto is largely irrelevant,” Union Gaming Group Managing Director Bill Lerner said. “Online gaming generally hasn’t been a partisan issue, although the dynamic has proved challenging in recent months.”
Marco Valerio, an online poker advocate who hosts poker-related programming on QuadJacks.com, cautioned listeners not to read too much into the platform language.
“The online gaming climate has changed so much in the last six years,” Valerio said. “For one thing, online poker was largely friendless back then at virtually every level. Today you have much stronger support from big gaming and key legislators.”
In Washington, D.C., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., agreed in July on a framework for legislation to regulate online poker. The bill would also strengthen laws prohibiting sports wagering and other traditional casino games on the Internet.
Reid said Republican votes were needed to push online legislation through Congress. He asked Heller to round up GOP support.
“Dean Heller is busy working with Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl and has had numerous conversations with other senators to communicate this concern, and figure out how to make regulated Internet poker, a game of skill, a reality,” spokeswoman Smith said.
Reid could not be reached for comment.
A Democratic aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said GOP support for the Reid-Kyl bill is lacking, regardless of the platform. At least 15 Republican senators are needed to support the bill. So far, the only two firm yes votes are Kyl and Heller.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.
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