LAS VEGAS — A new Republican party platform adopted at last week's GOP national convention in Florida opposes online gambling, putting it at odds with the position many elected Nevada Republicans take.
The plank in the platform — listed under the heading "Making the Internet Family-Friendly" — links online gambling to gambling addiction.
"We're not going to agree on everything," Gov. Brian Sandoval told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "Nevada has always set the gold standard in gaming, and online gaming is the next frontier for the industry. Our state supports online poker and will continue to work to ensure a secure online gaming environment."
Many major players in Nevada's casino industry are asking Congress to pass legislation that legalizes and regulates Internet poker nationally. Experts believe Nevada could be the center of a regulated Internet gambling market.
While it's not the first time the party's platform has spoken out against Internet gambling, this year's statement mentions recent changes in the U.S. Justice Department's interpretation of the Federal Wire Act of 1961, which governs betting over wires or electronic means.
In December, the DOJ reversed its decades-old interpretation of the act, saying the law only encompasses sports wagering. Legal experts say that clears the way for individual states to allow online poker and other games, as long as the gambling doesn't cross state lines.
"We support the prohibition of gambling over the Internet and call for reversal of the Justice Department's decision distorting the formerly accepted meaning of the Wire Act that could open the door to Internet betting," the platform stated.
Some online poker proponents fear the platform could stymie legalization efforts in Congress.
"The 2012 GOP platform on Internet gambling is grossly out of touch with the opinions of the party's own elected officials," said John Pappas, executive director of the Washington D.C.-based Poker Players Alliance. "Instead of broad political statements, now more than ever, Americans expect Congress to finally put the political posturing aside."
Other proponents, including Marco Valerio, who hosts poker-related programming on QuadJacks.com, downplayed the role of the platform.
"The online gaming climate has changed so much in the last six years," Valerio said. "For one thing, online poker was largely friendless back then at virtually every level. Today you have much stronger support from big gaming and key legislators."
In Washington, D.C., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., agreed this summer on a framework for online poker legislation. The bill would also strengthen bans on sports wagering and other traditional casino games on the Internet.
Reid said the bill needs Republican support to make it through Congress, and has asked fellow Nevada Sen. Dean Heller to round up GOP votes.
Heller's campaign spokeswoman, Chandler Smith, downplayed the role the platform will play.
"Regardless of any language contained in a document voted on back in Florida, Dean Heller will always do what is in the best interest of Nevada," Smith said.
Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com
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