In a surprising turnaround, the Republican Platform Committee today stripped language urging a prohibition of Internet gambling from its draft platform. Considering one of the leading opponents of an internet gambling ban is former Republican Senator, Alfonse D'Amato, Chairman of the Poker Player's Alliance (PPA), a supporter of presumed Republican presidential nominee John McCain, this move is not completely surprising. It appears to be part of an effort by the party to appeal to a wider constituency going into the November election.
Anti-internet gambling language had been included in the last two party platforms, in 2000 and 2004, and was in the proposed platform for this year's election. But it was removed just ahead of next week's Republican National Committee meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. About removing the anti-internet gambling language from the party's platform, Sen. Richard M. Burr (R-N.C.) said, "We can use this to make the tent bigger."
The removal of the anti-internet gambling language from the party's platform represents a victory for the PPA which has lobbied to keep internet gambling legal. The million-member group has been especially active this election year, spending $1.2 million during the first half of 2008 and its members contributing more than $350,000 to candidates this election year.
"This is a small victory in our determined effort to educate both sides of the aisle that there is a true constituency in America that values its Internet freedoms," said John Pappas, the alliance's executive director. It is also a somewhat unexpected move by the Republicans, considering they had been the ones to first propose language bringing the legality of online gambling into question as part of the UIGEA. Indeed, it is the Republicans who are now leading the opposition to bills currently in subcommittee which seek to clarify the UIGEA and limit its scope.
Opponents of the proposed anti-internet gambling language in the party's platform had flooded the Republican party's website with comments urging Republicans to drop their platform opposition to online gambling. According to CQPolitics.com, the latest draft of the party's platform released today dropped the language. The website indicated that, according to Sen. Burr, the Internet gambling provision was one of several smaller-ticket items left on the cutting-room floor.
"We firmly believe that if this is a big enough issue, it would be offered as an amendment," Burr said. And, indeed, there is a chance the issue could come up again when the party's platform is introduced to the full committee ahead of the vote on the convention floor scheduled for September 1st. So opponents should continue to have their voices heard by submitting their comments to the Republican Party Platform website at gopplatform2008.com.
Editor's Note: In a second turnaround, the main platform-generating committee returned the anti-online gambling language to the official GOP platform only hours after this story was revised.