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Presidential Election Could Largely Influence Internet Poker Legislation in U.S.


The prospects for legislation to license and regulate Internet poker passing by the end of the year may be determined by today's presidential election in the U.S.

Poker Players Alliance executive director John Pappas sees the most advantageous result for poker being that Barack Obama remains president, the Democrats retain control of the Senate and the Republicans keep their advantage in the House.

"I really think the status quo is the best-case scenario for something getting done in the lame duck," Pappas said. "Any time the vote gets rocked too much, meaning the House or Senate switches parties or the White House changes hands, the chances of compromise or deal making in the lame duck is much more difficult since the parties newly in control have no incentive to cut deals. They would rather wait until they have members of their caucus in place and deal with things in the new year."

Mitt Romney winning the presidency might be a hindrance for poker's future. Romney made it known during the Republican primary that he opposed any increased access to online gambling. A Romney win could lessen Republican support for the Harry Reid-John Kyl bill.

Probably the worst-case scenario would be a clean Republican sweep with Romney taking the White House and the Senate switching to the Republicans, which would make any bill movement of any kind during the lame-duck session unlikely.

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson has no shot at winning the election, but a vote for Johnson could be construed as a vote for poker rights and the general idea that the government should not be unnecessarily interfering in people's lives.

The Senate enters the election with 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans. A switch to Republican control by a couple of votes might still allow for cooperation and deal making during the lawmakers' lame duck period if Obama remains as President.

The Republicans enter the election with a large advantage in the House with 241 members compared to 191 for the Democrats.

The PPA PokerPac issued endorsements of 52 incumbents in the House and two in the Senate. There is also one endorsement of a challenger, Democrat Jim Graves, who is running against Michele Bachmann for a congressional seat in Minnesota. The PPA also has a list of grades for how representatives currently in office have responded to the poker issue.

Poker's biggest nemesis in Congress, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), is up for reelection but is not expected to be challenged by Democrat Penny Bailey.

While the PPA PokerPAC made endorsements only on clear-cut races where the incumbent has a clear history of supporting online poker and the challenger does not, the most important race could be one where both candidates have shown to be friends of the cause the Nevada Senate seat between incumbent Republican incumbent Dean Heller and Democratic challenger Shelley Berkley, currently a congressman in the state. Both received A grades from the PPA. came out in support of Heller, making the sound argument that Heller is a key person in bringing Republican support to the Reid-Kyl bill.

"The PPA isn't taking a position on this race because, over the long term, we believe Nevadans will be well served by either Shelley or Dean in the Senate," Pappas said. "Both have been good for us in the past and both would be good for us in the future. Certainly, there is a very good argument for Dean Heller to provide the very best opportunity in the lame duck. If the charge for him is bringing on Republican supporters in the Senate, it's much more difficult for him to do that as an outgoing Senator rather than a newly reelected Senator who has six more years of serving with those people."

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