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Jeanette Kozlowski

Insights | Election Day

5 September 2008

Speculation surrounding the two United States presidential candidates’ views on I-gaming bubbled over in the blogosphere when Barack Obama selected Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware as his running mate: What did his choice mean for I-gaming in the land of Stars and Stripes?

Some proclaimed it as good for the industry; others dismissed it as not so good. Even IGamingNews’ own Mark Balestra chimed in on the IGN blog.

Now with each ticket cemented -- Obama-Biden versus McCain-Palin -- we wondered what United States I-gaming policy would look like if either administration were to set up shop in Washington, D.C., after the November 2008 election. The following are industry expert responses to that rather taxing question.

Martin D. Owens: I’m going to take a different tack: The views of the presidential candidates don’t really matter anymore. At the national level, U.S. gambling policy is hard aground. Thanks to the UIGEA, it can’t go forward. Attempts to repeal or modify the UIGEA in Congress will be easily blocked. And let’s face it, at the national level this is just not a big deal.

The real action in U.S. I-gaming is going to take place after the election. And it’s going to take place at the state level, ironically because of a very broad exception written into the UIGEA itself. Individual states have every right to legalize and license Internet gambling within their borders, whether the current occupant of the White House likes it or not. California is considering legalizing online poker, and a number of other states (all with large populations and large budget deficits) are following this closely.

Many Americans have forgotten it, and most of our foreign friends never did understand it, but State law is the primary reference point for American gambling law. Never mind -- we are going to be reminded of this very soon.

Specializing in Internet gambling law, Mr. Owens is a lawyer based in Sacramento, Calif.

Edward J. Leyden: iMEGA is strictly non-partisan and neither supports nor advocates for any of the candidates in this presidential and congressional election cycle. It is nevertheless helpful to try and envision the future political environment (bearing in mind that these are my personal opinions).

Neither Senator McCain nor Senator Obama have indicated a personal bias for or against I-gaming, so it's impossible to discern their own governance policies on this issue.

However, since page 47 of the Republican Platform contains a plank expressing "support for the law prohibiting gambling on the Internet," it's a fair bet that a McCain administration would do the same. It is also not going too far out on a limb to suggest that were Governor Palin to succeed to the presidency, her administration's policies on I-gaming would look very much like those of the current administration. Senator Obama has not provided much insight into his own views on Internet gaming, although he reportedly enjoys a recreational hand of poker (as, in all fairness, Senator McCain allegedly does also with respect to craps).

It is important to remember that party affiliation is far from an accurate predictor of an individual politician's stance on gaming issues, as is borne out by the fact that some of the most vociferous proponents of the UIGEA in Congress were loyal members of the Democratic caucus -- and that some of the most effective advocates for reforming it are Republicans.

Regardless of the makeup of the 111th Congress -- or who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue come noontime on Jan. 20, 2009 -- the most immediate and effective relief from the current legal and regulatory environment for Internet gaming will, in all likelihood still come from the judiciary -- the nonpolitical branch of government -- as iMEGA prosecutes its appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia.

A holding by this Court in iMEGA's favor striking down the UIGEA in whole or in part would have a monumental -- indeed, "game-changing" -- impact on the political environment for I-gaming in Washington, in both the legislative and executive branches. The result may well be that Congress will take a fresh look at Internet gaming with a view towards reaching across any remaining partisan divides to devise wise and equitable policies for governing it.

Mr. Leyden practices law in Washington, D.C., and currently serves as president of the Interactive Media, Entertainment & Gaming Association (iMEGA) and vice chairman of the American Bar Association.

Insights | Election Day is republished from
Articles in this Series
Jeanette Kozlowski
Jeanette Kozlowski