Online poker players in the United States rejoice! Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), one of the pilots of the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), is retiring from Capitol Hill in 2012. According to the Associated Press, Kyl made the announcement on Thursday and plans to vacate his office after three terms spanning 18 years.
Kyl has been one of the most outspoken critics of pro-internet gambling legislation and was one of the major players in pushing the UIGEA into law five years ago. In a 2005 story that appeared on the CBS news program “60 Minutes,” Kyl assessed that internet gambling is “so easy to do. It’s so easy for kids to do. It’s so addictive… Our kids have access to the internet. They’re frequently not supervised and you can run up a huge debt on your folks’ credit card.”
Kyl was also linked to blocking three U.S. Treasury appointments a year go after the regulations of the UIGEA had been delayed.
The Poker Players Alliance declined to comment on Kyl’s announcement, but members of the community have been buzzing about the news on TwoPlusTwo. The original poster in a thread on the poker forum trumpeted, “This is a big deal. Kyl has long been the leading opponent in the Senate to legislation regulating online poker. With his departure, another hurdle is crossed. Now, Arizona, just make sure you replace him with someone more friendly to the cause.”
Another poster wasn’t sure whether Kyl’s replacement would treat internet gambling legislation any more favorably: “I’m probably just pessimistic, but we’ll probably see another conservative (and anti-gambling) elected from Arizona anyway. Arizona has become a hotbed for conservatism lately. And I think they’re trying to pass a law that would allow the state legislature to nullify any Federal law, so even if internet poker is legalized nationally, Arizona could ‘opt out’ anyway.”
Kyl was optimistic that his Senate seat would remain in Republican control, telling the Associated Press, “I think it’s probably going to be a pretty good year for Republicans. We have a very strong bench of candidates who might want to seek the position. With all due respect to my Democratic friends, I don’t think there are as many candidates on their side that would have the prospect of winning.”
Speaking about a bill proposed by Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) back in 2007 to legalize and regulate internet gambling in the United States, Kyl expressed his outright disapproval: “The Frank bill is unacceptable to the State Attorneys General and it ought to be unacceptable to Members of Congress as well. I urge my colleagues to oppose the Frank bill or any similar proposals that would create a permissive Federal licensing scheme for internet gambling.”
The UIGEA drove PartyPoker, then the largest online poker site in the industry, out of the U.S. market. Party Gaming, the parent company of PartyPoker, made the decision and its share price tumbled as a result. Other publicly traded companies like Sportingbet and 888 also yanked their online poker sites from the U.S. market. All three are traded on the London Stock Exchange.
Former Presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ) is Kyl’s counterpart in the Western U.S. state.
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