With midterm elections Tuesday, the Poker Players Alliance has put out a list of state and federal lawmakers it calls "jokers" for having advocated for prohibitions against online poker.
The site has a catchy slogan — "It's time to take the jokers out of the deck" — though that is easier said than done. The elections will have a great impact on how Internet poker fares legislatively at the federal and state levels in coming years. Unfortunately, there's not much the poker vote will be able to do to change the results.
Out of the 22 jokers on the list — one senator, 16 congressmen (one running for Senate), four candidates for governor, and one state representative — only two appear to be in any danger of losing.
"It's more about sending a message to these lawmakers that they are on notice rather than expecting any to be defeated in this race," said John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance. "They are, for the most part, safe this election."
Pappas said it was a calculated move by Sheldon Adelson's Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling to go after support from politicians who weren't going to be challenged. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who introduced the Adelson-crafted federal bills to strengthen The Wire Act to ban most forms of Internet gambling, are among those not facing a sweat. Most of the House incumbents are running unopposed.
One of the jokers is guaranteed to be out as Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) is not running for re-election.
It's the races for governor in Florida and Massachusetts where the poker vote might be able to make a difference. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who wrote a letter in support of the federal prohibition bills, is in a dead heat with Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, who was previously governor of the state from 2007 to 2011 before a failed attempt at joining the U.S. Senate.
Pappas pointed out that Scott took money from Adelson and has been vocal in opposition of Internet gambling while supporting brick-and-mortar gambling, the same seemingly hypocritical view that Adelson takes.
Martha Coakley is slightly behind in recent polls for the open Massachusetts governorship after long being considered the favorite.
Pappas indicated that the PPA came out with the list of jokers rather than its usual letter grades for representatives currently in office because there was little discussion of online poker at the federal level this year to give a clear indication of where lawmakers stand on the issue.
"There's just so many unknowns in Congress because of the lack of federal movement," Pappas said. "We thought from a federal perspective it would be much easier and efficient to focus on those guys who clearly staked a claim against us and call them out prior to the election."
Republicans are expected to do well in the elections, which is alarming for the future of online poker. Though this issue has bipartisan support, as well as detractors from both parties, most of the staunchest opponents are Republicans. Out of the 22 jokers, 17 are Republicans. Adelson has been the largest donor to Republican candidates the last few election cycles.
Former online poker player Nate Silver's statistical analysis website fivethirtyeight.com projects that the Republicans have a 74-percent chance of winning a majority in the Senate, up 18 percent from three weeks ago. If this happens, it would mean that Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will no longer be Senate Majority Leader. Although Reid has been a disappointment to the poker community when it comes to moving legislation to legalize online poker, he at least seemed like a dependable goaltender to stop any future attempts at a ban since casinos in his state already are offering online poker.
"I think first we have the challenge of the lame duck and making sure nothing gets in during that," Pappas said. "Then 2015 is going to be a real fight, but I think it's going to be a lot fairer fight than during the lame duck, which leaves the opportunity for mischief to happen behind closed doors. Next year, if they want to reintroduce those [online gaming prohibition] bills and have hearings, let's have at it. Let's have it in public."
Pappas said he's hopeful, despite the inevitability of most races, that poker players will take into account the stance of the jokers on this issue when they vote and make their feelings known to the lawmakers through the contact info provided when you click on a picture from the jokers site.
"This is both a practical guide for our membership and a way we can let these politicians know that their position has not gone unnoticed," Pappas said. "The effect may not be felt this time around, but if they continue to take positions on issues against their constituents, it will resonate and could impact electability down the road."
*Lead photo courtesy of hd2wallpapers.com.