in on: Washington
Lisa Mascaro, Our Partners at Las Vegas Sun
D.C. - Could a cornerstone of Republicans' American
Values Agenda - the just passed law to ban Internet gambling
- come back to bite the party on Nov. 7?
That's the prognosis
of poker-playing scholar Charles Murray, who warned in a recent
newspaper opinion piece of the political damage Republicans
may face from the nation's poker-playing masses this fall. An
estimated 8 million Americans gamble online.
"We are talking
about a lot of people ... who are angry enough to vote on the
basis of this one issue, and they blame Republicans," said
Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, writing
in The New York Times.
The Poker Players
Alliance, which fought the bill on Capitol Hill, says Murray
is spot on.
The group's president,
Michael Bolcerek, said that in catering to the religious right,
which pushed Congress for the ban, Republicans have antagonized
the party's rank and file who just want to play a few hands
Bolcerek said he
has been getting a continuous flow of e-mails from Republicans
"who say they're going to vote straight Democrat."
The group is urging its 120,000 members to vote - and posted
congressional voting records at its Web site.
it was a miscalculation by the Republican Party to assume these
people won't go to the polls and vote on this issue," Bolcerek
said in an interview.
Online gambling has
grown into a massive pastime, although not exactly a legal one.
The religious right has pushed to ban the practice for years,
without luck, saying it is harmful to family life.
But just as Washington
lawmakers were preparing to adjourn for fall elections, Congress
passed the gambling ban by tacking it onto a massive port security
bill members couldn't turn down. President Bush signed the bill
at a ceremony just over a week ago.
Now millions of American
gamblers are being shut out of popular sites that immediately
closed their doors to U.S. players. Murray argued that based
on his online talks with poker players, he's willing to bet
many of the "outraged millions" are Republicans and
Reagan Democrats. He was not immediately available for comment.
"This law all
by itself could add a few more Democratic congressional seats
in the fall elections," he wrote.
A spokeswoman for
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who had made the
bill a priority, doubts its passage will hurt the GOP or depress
The bill's passage
comes after other big-ticket values agenda items such as bans
on gay marriage and flag desecration failed over summer.
am not sure how enforcing something that was already illegal
is bad for either political party," Frist spokeswoman Carolyn
Weyforth said. "This bill just put in place a mechanism
to stop those that were ignoring our existing laws."