Washington – 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 online.
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.
„We believe 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 Republican turnout.
The bill’s passage comes after other big-ticket values agenda items such as bans on gay marriage and flag desecration failed over summer.
„I 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.“