The 2008 general elections in the United States were held last night and, at the end of the day, Illinois Senator Barack Obama was named President-elect by a landslide. The official CNN projection that he would claim victory occurred at 11:00pm ET, prompting cheers from the thousands of Obama supporters who were staked out at Grant Park in downtown Chicago. It’s hard to say how Obama will react to legislation that is beneficial towards online poker. However, introducing bills and then pushing them through Congress is the job of lawmakers in the House of Representatives and Senate. With the Congressional Guide published by the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) in tow, let’s take a look at how several key lawmakers who have been friendly and not-so-friendly towards online poker fared last night.
Perhaps the biggest proponent of online poker and the internet gambling industry in general is Barney Frank (D-MA). Towards the end of the 2008 Congressional session and right before adjournment for elections, Frank successfully pushed HR 6870, the second version of the Payments System Protection Act, through the House Financial Services Committee. The bill seeks to clarify the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) by developing a list of activities that are and are not allowed under it. Frank won with ease on Tuesday night, defeating Republican challenger Earl Sholley 68% to 25%, according to election results found on Yahoo. HR 6870, if not acted upon in a lame duck session in the coming weeks, must be re-introduced in 2009. This is true of all existing legislation.
Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) introduced HR 2610, the Skill Game Protection Act. The bill exempts online poker, bridge, chess and other games of skill from the UIGEA and Wire Act. Skill games are defined as those in which the action is primarily player versus player and not player versus the house. Wexler, who represents the 19th Congressional District of Florida, also won big, defeating Republican Edward Lynch 66% to 27%.
Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX) introduced HR 6663, which sought to clarify the UIGEA by saying that its enforcement should be focused on online sports betting. Despite its attack on that industry, the bill was not endorsed by the PPA because of a sentence in the legislation which stated that the legality of online poker is unclear. Despite this, like Frank and Wexler, the PPA’s Congressional Guide ranked Sessions an A+. Sessions will represent the 32nd Congressional District of Texas for another two years after defeating Democrat Eric Roberson on Tuesday by a count of 57% to 40%.
Congressman Ron Paul, also from Texas, ran unopposed according to Yahoo, ensuring two more years of service in Washington, D.C. A former Republican Presidential candidate, Paul co-authored HR 5767, the first version of the Payments System Protection Act, with Frank. The bill was defeated in Committee. An amendment to it was sponsored by Congressman Peter King (R-NY). King defeated Democrat Graham Long by a 64% to 35% margin. He represents the Third Congressional District of New York.
Shelley Berkley (D) and Jon Porter (R), both Representatives from Nevada, have in the past introduced legislation to study internet gambling. Berkley’s was the duo’s latest effort. HR 2140 sat with 73 co-sponsors, the most of any internet gambling-related bill, at the end of the 2008 Congressional session. Berkley is ranked as an A+ by the PPA; Porter is ranked as an A. Berkley won by a 67% to 28% margin. The story was not as rosy for Porter, however, who lost a tight race to Democrat Tina Titus by a final count of 47% to 42%.
Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA), who has introduced HR 2607 and HR 6501, both bills related to the taxation of internet gambling. While Berkley and Porter lambasted HR 6501, which stated that up to $40 billion could be raised for job skills for those in declining industries, it was one of the first attempts to outline what positive impact the internet gambling industry could have on society. McDermott won his race in a landslide, defeating Republican Steve Beren 84% to 15%.
Two primary opponents of internet gambling were also up for re-election last night. Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who was instrumental in bringing forth the UIGEA back in 2006, defeated Democrat Sam Rasoul by a 61% to 36% count. Goodlatte represents the Sixth Congressional District of Virginia. He remains one of online poker’s biggest opponents and has a PPA Congressional rating of F-, the lowest possible grade.
Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) will also be enjoying two more years in the nation’s capital. He ran unopposed according to Yahoo. Bachus is currently the leading Republican on the House Financial Services Committee and famously made up a study by McGill University claiming that one-third of all college students who gambled online ultimately attempted suicide. No such study ever took place at McGill, which is located in Canada.
Others who the PPA ranked as an F- included:
Congresswoman Darlene Hooley (D-OR) – Did not run for re-election
Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) – Won by defeating Republican Joel Dkystra
Visit the PPA Congressional Guide and see where your Representative or Senator stands.