How Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House Might Influence Online Poker Legislation

Posted on October 26th, 2015 by Jon Pineda
Supporters of online poker aren't celebrating Rep. Paul Ryan becoming the next Speaker of the House, but compared to the alternatives his speakership might be more beneficial than initially thought. (Image: Getty/businessinsider.com)

Supporters of online poker aren’t celebrating Rep. Paul Ryan becoming the next Speaker of the House, but compared to the alternatives his speakership might be more beneficial than initially thought. (Image: Getty/businessinsider.com)

United States Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) is the overwhelming favorite to replace resigning Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), reports surfacing that the House of Representatives will elect Ryan to the position this Thursday.

It’s been a whirlwind 30 days since Boehner announced he was stepping down on September 25 and leaving Congress.

House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California) was immediately cast as the frontrunner, but his campaign took a swift downward spiral after the congressman hinted that the ongoing Benghazi investigation was primarily aimed at bringing down Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid.

Chaffetz Folds

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) emerged following McCarthy’s collapse as a possible replacement. Chaffetz is notorious to online poker players as the legislator who bowed to billionaire Sheldon Adelson and introduced the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) in the House, the anti-online gambling measure that would obstruct all Internet betting.

Like McCarthy, Chaffetz’s campaign traveled a rocky and tumultuous path, ultimately leading to his forfeiture.

“I’m out, and I’m supporting Paul Ryan,” Chaffetz said last week. “The reason I was running was because Paul Ryan wasn’t.”

With Paul now the preferred lawmaker to ascend to the highest position in the legislature and become the most notable Republican not named Trump, online poker advocates are wondering how his leadership might affect future legislation.

Paul and Poker

Should Paul assume the House Speaker role and climb the totem pole to third in line for the presidency, the nine-term congressman will have his plate full of pressing courses.

The direct issue facing the Speaker-in-waiting is the need to increase the national borrowing ceiling to avoid the first-ever default on paying back US debt. “Paul has monumental obstacles,” Rep. Trent Franks (R-Arizona) said recently.

Among those many obstacles is the subject of online poker. Though Ryan hasn’t ever publicly supported legalization, Internet poker promoters should be sighing a sense of relief over what could have been.

Make no mistake about it, Chaffetz would have done anything and everything in his power to pass RAWA or similar legislation to prevent further online gaming expansion. Ryan has principally done just the opposite.

Ryan opted to not co-sponsor the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA), the Internet Gaming Prohibition and Enforcement Act, as did 32 of his Republican House colleagues. He also chose to withhold his John Hancock from Chaffetz’s RAWA, though 21 other Republicans in the House signed on the dotted line.

A prominent member of the Tea Party, Ryan also chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, the oldest committee in the United States first created in 1802.

Ways and Means is the chief tax-writing committee in the House, meaning the next Speaker presumably understands that imposing a congressional ban on states that wish to legalize and tax online gambling and poker would diminish revenues.

That’s not to say Ryan will ever voice his support for online gaming on the federal level, but it’s also rather unlikely he will ever voice his opposition to permitting states to decide their own legal interpretations.

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