As he prepares to leave his position in the United States Senate, Republican Arizona Senator Jon Kyl has potentially softened his stance when it comes to legislation regarding online poker and internet gambling.
On his website, Kyl spells out his viewpoints on several different subjects that he will face over the coming 18 months. Under the heading of “Updating the Law to Account for New Technologies,” Kyl seems to have opened the door for a change of heart when it comes to online poker.
“I have opposed efforts to legalize internet gambling in the past because evidence suggests that it fosters problems unlike any other forms of gambling,” Kyl stated on his website. “Online players can gamble 24 hours a day from home, children can play without sufficient age verification, and betting with a credit card can undercut a player’s perception of the value of cash – leading to possible addiction and, in turn, bankruptcy, crime, and even suicide.”
With this said, however, Kyl addressed the possibility of changing his mind in the case of online poker. “Efforts to carve out an exception for games like poker, which many believe is a game of skill, may be considered later this year,” Kyl said. “Until I have the chance to review them, I cannot make a judgment about their merits, but I will consider them carefully as long as they leave in place the broader proscriptions against online betting.”
In 2006, Kyl, a staunch anti-gambling proponent, was one of the major forces behind the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) and was instrumental in having the bill tacked onto a piece of must-pass security legislation. After then-President George W. Bush signed the law into effect, Kyl continued his anti-gambling crusade.
Irritated by the delay in the implementation of the UIGEA’s regulations, Kyl used his position on the Senate Committee on Finance and, in particular, his seat as the Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight, to force the administration of President Barack Obama to enact the provisions of the UIGEA. In 2010, Kyl withheld his consent for the appointment of six nominees to the U.S. Treasury until the UIGEA was put into full effect.
What is the reason behind the apparent “change of heart” for the Senator? Kyl is currently in his third term as a Senator, but announced in February that he would not seek a fourth. Without the pressures of having to campaign, Kyl’s apparent change of mindset could indicate that he is willing to examine the usage of online gaming as a revenue builder rather than think about it as a social evil. It is also possible that Kyl has heard from his constituency in Arizona, which has 22 Indian casinos throughout the state.
Whether Kyl is able to exercise his new viewpoint on online poker before the end of his current term remains to be seen. In the House of Representatives, John Campbell of California has introduced HR 1174, the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act. Currently there are no partner bills for HR 1174 pending in the Senate, something that would be necessary for online poker legislation to work its way through Congress.