2012 Lame Duck Session of US Congress Is Complete
The 2012 lame duck session of the U.S. Congress has come to its formal close, and once again online poker players are left with little more than the status quo.
Expectations were moderate to high for some sort of online poker legislation to come out of the session. Proponents pointed to the support of two powerful Senators from opposite ideological poles – Nevada’s Harry Reid and Arizona’s Jon Kyl – and the growing press from individual states such as Delaware as two factors that would push the bill over the top. Skeptics, however, noted stuff opposition from a variety of corners, the lack of time and proper vehicle for such legislation, asserting that concerns over the fiscal cliff would effectively suck all of the legislative oxygen out of the room.
Ultimately it was the skeptics who won the day as the session concluded without any real evidence that Reid and Kyl were at any point close to marshalling the support necessary to get their bill passed into law.
In fact, the bill was never actually formally introduced, a state of affairs that complicated matters for both supporters. Without any firm information about exactly what the bill contained, it was difficult to tout its merits or dispel misinformation from opponents.
It’s not clear what comes next for online poker at the federal level. Sen. Reid and fellow Nevada Senator Dean Heller have both publicly indicated their support for a federal solution regarding online poker regulation. But Reid’s partner in the lame duck poker push, Jon Kyl, has now retired from the Senate.
The chances of a poker bill advancing on its own seem as remote in the new Senate as they did in the old, although news that friend-of-poker Barney Frank may take John Kerry’s soon to be vacant Senate seat would put at least one more advocate for regulation in the chamber.
In the absence of action by the federal government, it seems likely that states will fill the void with legislation of their own. No fewer than a dozen U.S. states – including California, Iowa, Delaware, Nevada and Illinois – are at some stage of the process of regulating online gambling. Much of their progress to this point has been tempered by the uncertainty regarding the federal government’s plans; after all, if online poker looked set to be regulated at the federal level, there would be little incentive for a state like Delaware to construct its own regulatory regime.
With that question apparently settled – at least for now – we could see an unprecedented burst of regulatory activity at the state level. And as more states enter the picture, more and more still will be motivated to come along.
Does that mean the federal government is completely out of the picture? Not necessarily. After all, Harry Reid remains a powerful force in the Senate, and his constituents by and large prefer a federal regulatory scheme. But with the lame duck come and gone, and the states moving forward the issue daily, Reid is certainly running low on time to pull a rabbit out of his legislative hat.