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Blame game: Fahrenkopf, Reid's office point fingers for failure to legalize Internet poker

7 Jun 2013

By Howard Stutz and Steve Tetreault
LAS VEGAS -- Two of Nevada’s longtime political power players — gaming lobbyist Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — took turns blaming each other for the failure for Congress to legalize Internet poker last year.

The dust-up surprised many because the longtime Nevadans had always been complimentary to each other.

Fahrenkopf, chief executive of the Washington, D.C.-based American Gaming Association, is retiring at the end of the month.

In an interview with online publication Gambling Compliance that was published Thursday, he said the failure of Reid and now-retired Arizona Sen. John Kyl to introduce an online poker bill last year “was my biggest disappointment” in his 18 years with the American Gaming Association.

Asked if he blames Reid and Kyl for not introducing legislation, Fahrenkopf said, “If I had to blame anybody — I mean I’m sure they did their best — but that’s where the failure is. Blame is not probably the right way to put it, but there was a failure because nothing was introduced.”

Fahrenkopf said the gaming industry and other lobbyists “looked to Sen. Kyl and Sen. Reid as to how we would proceed.”

Fahrenkopf went on to say the industry “worked our tails off, and to get to the point where nothing was even introduced that we could go out and try to sell.”

He admitted the bill might have lost, but at least “we’d have gotten something introduced and could have laid down a marker.”

Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman told Gambling Compliance the majority leader “has been totally committed to this effort from day one.”

On Thursday, after the article made the rounds in Washington, D.C., Orthman’s tone changed.

In a statement, she said Fahrenkopf, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, was more interested in his role as co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates in 2012 than seeing an online gaming bill get through Congress.

Orthman said Fahrenkopf’s version of what happened to the poker bill was “revisionist history.”

“Perhaps if Mr. Fahrenkopf had spent less time dealing with the presidential debates and more time actually doing his job as head of the gaming association we could have passed the bill,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the American Gaming Association did not follow-up with an additional comment.

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