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Once again, online poker players in the U.S. find themselves scratching their heads over our government’s legislative machinations, trying to sort out what exactly our fearless leaders are up to now. This time the focus is upon this new Joint Select Committee for Deficit Reduction -- a.k.a., the “super committee” -- that was created as part of the resolution of that whole “debt ceiling” crisis earlier this month.
The 12-member, bipartisan committee was created in order to discover both places to cut and potential revenue sources in order to reduce the budget by a hefty $1.5 trillion. The group has a short time to formulate recommendations, having to pass them along to Congress by November 23. The House and Senate will then have just one month to vote “up or down” on what the super committee has given them, with no amendments or filibusters allowed.
Supporters of licensed and regulated online poker in the U.S. believe it is possible that the super committee might include some form of internet gambling legislation in its recommendation. If such were to happen -- and Congress were to approve the committee’s recommendations -- that would speed up the process by which Americans could get back online to play poker, making such happen much more quickly than via the usual, laborious legislative process of introducing a bill (such as we’ve seen Rep. Barney Frank try multiple times, or the more recent “Barton bill”), getting it through committee, having the House and Senate both vote in favor, and then finally having the president sign it into law.
Some are pointing to various gestures made by Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (who is not on the super committee), the newfound interest in internet gambling of chief UIGEA-architect Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) (who is a member), and the significance of various lobbying efforts and other noise around Capitol Hill thought to suggest the time is ripe for finally entertaining online gambling. (Here’s a summary of various “circumstantial” evidence that regulating online gambling may be something considered by the super committee.)
Last week Rich Muny, VP of Player Relations for the Poker Players Alliance, appeared on the Two Plus Two Pokercast (the 8/22/11 episode) to say he was “as enthusiastic about this as I've been since this [fight to license and regulate online poker] started,” calling the super committee “a golden opportunity” to get some sort of legislation passed.
All of which perhaps sounds like something might happen here (and soon). Still, I can’t help but remain somewhat guarded -- if not dubious -- about it all, for a couple of reasons.
One has to do with the current political climate in the U.S. The fast-approaching presidential campaign seems to be highlighting so-called “moral” issues more and more, with (sometimes) related matters of faith getting mixed in frequently, too. And, as Barney Frank once pointed out in one of those House Financial Services Committee meetings, “there is a moral disapproval of gambling” among many legislators as well as those whom they represent.
I might be wrong, but it feels as though today supporting online gambling -- even in the context of (heroically?) attempting to alleviate the country’s budgetary woes -- is less politically savvy than it would have been just a couple of years ago. So that could present an obstacle to online gambling becoming part of the super committee’s recommendations.
My other reservation comes from the idea of the federal government actually passing such legislation and thereby being the ones to oversee online gambling -- including poker -- in the U.S. Nothing specific here other than the usual, vague worries over how exactly that would play out.
I mean it might work out just great. But something tells me it wouldn’t be exactly super.