LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- The message from today's Poker Players Alliance town hall just outside the World Series of Poker was clear: The best -- and perhaps only -- chance to pass federal legislation regulating online poker this year will come in the lame duck session of Congress after the November elections.
"The real deal is going to happen in the Senate," said John Pappas, executive director for the PPA. "It's been publicly acknowledged [Sen.] Jon Kyl and [Sen.] Harry Reid are working on a bill. That bill is done. It's now about timing."
"Kyl views this as important to his legacy," Pappas added, as he explained why one of the chief architects of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act would endorse online poker. "He's made a deal. Kyl recognizes in order to strengthen the law against other activities, he's willing to carve out a poker exception."
"If you do nothing, you'll see what's happening in Delaware, which is everything."
Delaware legalized online gambling earlier this week. The Delaware legislation allows casino table games, poker and video lottery terminal games to be offered online.
The reason so much is riding on the Reid-Kyl tandem to deliver online poker legislation is time is running out for House action.
"If we don't get something done by regular order in July, what we'd have to do is get something done by Reid after the presidential election," said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), who is the chief sponsor of online poker legislation in the House of Representatives.
But July action is unlikely, Barton explained, because House Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) faces a primary challenge from his right in August. And Upton won't want to hand social conservatives an issue.
Barton believes the House has the votes to pass online poker regulations. But he said the Senate won't move until they're sure they have the votes.
"Neither party is going to put this up if it's going to be a dogfight," Barton said. "It will only be put up if people are willing to vote for it."
That's where the PPA comes in, Pappas added. "We're making sure the bill has a soft landing in the House [after the Senate passes it]."
A lame duck session push for online poker legislation could be complicated if Republican residential candidate Mitt Romney wins the election.
"Some social conservatives could feel empowered [by a Romney win]," Pappas said. "But it's going to be a hell of a fight if you think you're going to strengthen the Wire Act without carving out online poker.
"Reid isn't going to let a bill pass that strengthens the Wire Act without carving out poker."
Pappas also noted that the PPA needs to start "engaging in figuring out what to do if online poker legislation goes state by state."
Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.