One of the problems inherent in being just one voice in 300 million is that it's easy to believe that individual votes do not matter. Not only do individual votes matter, but the mainstream has noticed that the voices and votes of gamblers may have had a crucial impact in a few key races in the recent mid-term elections.
On Wednesday, Robert Novak of the Evans-Novak Political Report published his morning-after overview of the wave that washed many Republicans out of office. Here's his quick take on the unexpected defeat of Representative Jim Leach, (R-IA), who was the original author of the Congressional legislation that ultimately became the UIGEA:
"Moderate Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) had a gambling problem — not to say that he gambled, but he was the driving force behind a bill that all but banned gambling over the Internet. He was the victim of the so-called "Green Velvet Revolution," a campaign by the Internet gambling industry and gamblers to defeat those who pushed the measure. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) survived this campaign. Leach had had serious races in the past — most recently in 2002 — but he was apparently not ready for college professor Dave Loebsack (D)."
More specifically, Loebsack defeated Leach by barely 5,700 votes in a race that was not on the endangered list from the Republican perspective before Tuesday's results were in. Novak rightly identified that that online gamblers in Leach's gamblers were extraordinarily motivated to show up and remove Leach from his Representative post.
While Arizona Sen. John Kyl did survive a late attack from pro-gambling forces, gamblers' impact was also felt elsewhere. Assuming that a significant majority of voters newly energized by the UIGEA broke for the Democratic side, then it becomes clear that in the two most highly contested Senate races, Montana and Virginia, the votes of online gamblers were of crucial importance.
Pending recounts and adjustments due to provisional ballots, the races in both states came down to a fraction of a single percentage point. The latest tally from Montana shows the victorious Democratic challenger, Jon Tester, with a margin of less than 2,850 votes over the incumbent, Conrad Burns. Whether this margin represents 2,850 new votes for the Democratic side, or a shift of some 1,400 already existing votes away from Burns' count, the point is clear --- gamblers breaking to the Democratic side made the difference. The same held true in Virginia, where Democratic challenger James Webb notched a provisional triumph of barely 7,000 votes, over Republican incumbent George Allen, Jr., in a race where more than 2.36 million votes were cast. Given that some 23 million Americans report having gambled online, it's a mathematical surety that rather more than 7,000 of them live in Virginia and found themselves energized to vote anti-Republican by the undemocratic manner in which the UIGEA was passed.
No less a poker authority than WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla was quoted elsewhere, before the election, as follows:
"Oddly enough, this bill might be worth 2-3 percentage points to Democratic candidates and could be a decisive issue which determines the outcome of the mid-term elections. Wouldn't that be justice if the Republicans were to be punished by poker players for their misdeeds?"
Dalla's words were prophetic. Based on the numbers themselves, at least the two Senate races in Montana and Virginia swung Democratic due to the anger of online gamblers. The Democrats had to win both of these races to achieve the narrowest of margins, 51-49, allowing them control of the Senate, and win both they did. Technically, the new Senate is 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans and two independents, but both of the independents --- Connecticut's Joe Lieberman and Vermont's Bernie Sanders --- will caucus with the Democrats, allowing the Democrats to chair all Senate committees. The change offers hope that no more Frist-style shenanigans will occur on gambling-related matters.
Come January, the United States Senate will have a new Democratic majority, directly due to the punitive votes of enraged online gamblers. It's not a "maybe," it's not a "possibly;" it has happened. The voice of online gamblers has changed America's government.
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