PPA: Payroll Tax Bill "Probably Not the Vehicle" for Online Poker

Published on Feb 14th, 2012

Rumors have been flying around the online poker community over the last few weeks that have centered on pro-online poker legislation being tacked onto a possible extension of the payroll tax cut. On Tuesday, Reuters reported that a deal to extend the tax break for a year was nearing completion: "House Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, and his lieutenants paved the way for a deal on Monday by backing down on the long-held Republican demand that the payroll tax cuts be offset with spending cuts."

It's been a long-held belief that legislation legalizing and regulating internet gambling, which could generate up to $40 billion over a 10-year period, could be a way to pay for extending the payroll tax cut or fund another measure.

When asked if online poker was being considered during the process of extending the payroll tax cut, Poker Players Alliance (PPA) Executive Director John Pappas (pictured) told PocketFives last week, "The process by which a bill gets done will be determined by the lawmakers, and any outside speculation is just that, speculation. The PPA will let the lawmakers focus on the process and we will do what we can to ensure that the policy is in the best interest of the poker community."

PPA Director of Grassroots and External Affairs Drew Lesofski, who has been intricately involved in the fight for online poker on Capitol Hill, told PocketFives on Tuesday that online poker's inclusion in the payroll bill is not likely. Lesofski revealed that he had talked to the Nevada Congressional delegation, but not Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office, and was told that the payroll tax bill is "probably not the correct vehicle" because House Speaker John Boehner and Reid want the final product to be as clean as possible.

Lesofski added, however, that a separate unemployment extension bill, which could come to a head in the near future, could be "more likely" of a target. In addition, the situation is constantly changing.

On Tuesday, PocketFives sat down with PPA Vice President of Player Relations Rich TheEngineer Muny (pictured), who gave us an update on the legislative process: "We're certainly hearing a lot more chatter overall about online poker legislation. It's clearly something that has the attention of Capitol Hill. They wouldn't be talking about it if it weren't going anywhere. The fact it's up for discussion means it could be discussed for various bills where it's a logical fit."

Whether the payroll tax extension is a "logical fit" in lawmakers' minds remains to be seen. Muny addressed, "In terms of the payroll tax cut, poker players have been reaching out to the payroll committee heavily via social networking. It's obvious that they'll be discussing the online poker bill's existence. We've worked hard for the legislation, trying to guide it through an appropriate path."

The funding measures included in the forthcoming payroll bill could be few and far between. A Politico article published this week read in part, "In a surprising about-face, House GOP leaders said Monday that if conference committee negotiations fail, they'll push an extension of the payroll tax cut through the end of this year without offsetting the cost." The article contained no mention of online poker, and revealed that debate about the extension could occur in the House on Wednesday.

Fox News echoed the sentiments of Politico, publishing a piece claiming that the final bill could be devoid of any funding mechanisms: "On Monday, Congressional Republicans on the bipartisan House-Senate payroll tax cut conference committee offered to cut the tax rate until the end of the year without finding $200 billion in offsets to pay for the extension."

Reid and Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act mastermind Jon Kyl (pictured) are reportedly in discussions to bring an online poker bill to the Senate, but so far, that has not come to fruition.

When asked what the feedback of the payroll tax committee has been regarding online poker, Muny told PocketFives, "I haven't heard anyone speak in terms of how it would fit with the payroll tax cut bill. We've heard feed back like, 'We'll keep your thoughts in mind' and, 'The tribes haven't been heard enough,' but we haven't heard a lot in terms of the specifics of how it would fit within the payroll tax committee's work."

Do online poker players in the United States have any reason to be optimistic then? "They'll probably find a vehicle somewhere," Muny said. "Which vehicle hasn't been our focus, though. We haven't been sitting back and looking at the best vehicle for Congress to use. We think that's the job of legislators. We're not proponents of one vehicle or another. We just want online poker to go forward."

Even if the payroll tax extension doesn't pan out, the work online poker players have done in contacting lawmakers could pay dividends. Muny reminded us, "The payroll tax committee consists of leaders in the House and Senate. All of the outreach we've done will go a long way."



  2. So could someone explain to me how the UIGEA was "fit" inside the safe port act? This is BS at the highest level!

  3. LOL Again

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