At a gathering of casino industry honchos, Porter spared no punches, telling execs they were a day late and a couple billion dollars short in arriving at the federal online poker passage party. He also brought up that bringing Indian tribes with casino interests, as well as state lotteries, into the bigger picture, has been way too little, way too late.
“Those are some powerful groups,” Porter told attendees at the recently held International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking, presented at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. “Each time the issue came up, the industry had a different perspective,” added Porter, discussing the subject on a panel also attended by Ultimate Gaming chairman Tom Breitling and Gaming Control Board chairman Mark Lipparelli. Breitling oversees Nevada’s first legal online poker presence with UltimatePoker.com, a Stations Casinos-owned product; so perhaps he is less upset about the lack of federal mandate than Porter himself. “[The industry] was sending too many mixed signals,” reiterated Porter.
Perhaps it’s the lobbyist in him, but Porter hasn’t yet thrown in the towel on the possibility of a federal measure coming back through Congress this session. “It won’t be a stand-alone bill. It will be attached to something else,” he mentioned. Porter added that Senate House Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D-Nevada), has continued to push the legislation forward. Partisan politics will not work in Reid’s favor on this one; many Republicans in Congress have made clear they will show no love to any bill authored by Reid. And even Porter admits that “Senator Reid can’t do it alone.”
Porter’s panel mates were less enthusiastic about the possibility of a federal mandate for online poker being passed anytime soon.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Lipparelli, who spearheaded Nevada’s online poker regulations, and Breitling, already benefiting from a non-federalized system, believe going on a state-by-state basis is the wave of the future now. “Without an overarching federal bill, states are moving ahead,” said Lipparelli. “Nevada has a good set of initial regulations. I’m sure they will be revised. We’ll discover areas where we pushed too hard, and where we didn’t push hard enough.”
The one thing all the panelists did agree on is that Internet gambling is here to stay, and that the complex issues of regulations, compliance, taxes, and the interface between land-based and online casinos will continue to need untangling for a good long while yet.