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Is Senator Jon Kyl Revising His Stance Against Online Poker?

By Lou Krieger and Shari Geller

Every hero needs a villain.  Without it the drama seldom rises to the level it often achieves when the scales are balanced and both sides have to raise their game to succeed.

Where would Sherlock Holmes be without Professor Moriarty?  Batman without the Joker?  The Dodgers minus the Giants? Ali lacking Fraiser? They all need one another, just as the Packers need the Bears, and McEnroe needed the chair umpire.

Poker’s arch enemy has always been soon-to-retire Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, an avowed, outspoken enemy of poker and online gaming.In the past, Sen. Kyl has written “Online poker is currently the most addictive form of gambling activity among American youth.” He went on to add, in response to efforts by Congressman Barney Frank to exempt online poker from the purview of the UIGEA, that: “Exempting online poker would, thus, exacerbate the two most pernicious aspects of internet gambling: addictiveness and easy access for youth.”

But now it appears Mr. Kyl may be mellowing, or at least softening his tone.  For whatever reason, he’s taken his foot off the anti-gaming pedal he’s been stomping down on since he’s been in office.

He says on his web site, “I have opposed efforts to legalize Internet gambling in the past because evidence suggests that it fosters problems unlike any other forms of gambling. 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. 

“Efforts to carve out an exception for games like poker, which many believe is a game of skill, may be considered later this year. 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.”

While this is not exactly a ringing endorsement in support of online poker, it is a real change in direction for the Senator.  His power in the Senate is such that his possible support for on line poker may even spur legislative action and accomplishment in a way that Barney Frank never really has.  Moreover, his new statement, coming as it did on the heels of his announcement that he would not be running for reelection, means that one of the staunchest opponents to online poker is no longer be leading the charge.

But don’t dismay about poker losing its arch enemy.  Just as Batman always had the Penguin wherever the Joker was temporarily scuttled, online poker will have to face another arch-enemy in the collective presence of the US Department of Justice—even as Senator Kyl seems willing to slide away from his previously incorrect political position regarding online poker. 

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