News & Politics

Frank Fahrenkopf Won’t Let Online Gambling Die

When the Senate voted to ban money transfers critical to online poker, the first question from insiders was how Fahrenkopf could let this happen.

The founder of the American Gaming Association, Fahrenkopf, a former head of the Republican National Committee and a former partner at Hogan & Hartson, is the most powerful pro-gambling lobbyist in Washington. One of his three daughters, Leslie, works as an attorney in the White House.

Although some may think that “family values” Republicans must be anti-gambling, Fahrenkopf is one of several powerful conservatives—former senator Bob Dole and Republican strategist Frank Luntz are two others—who work for gambling interests.

Fahrenkopf’s association represents 30 of the powerful names in gambling, including casino-owning rivals Harrah’s and MGM Mirage. Absent from his roster are the casinos owned by Donald Trump.

Sources say that the last-minute legislation on online casinos and poker couldn’t have happened had Fahrenkopf been fully opposed. In public Fahrenkopf has said that his members took no stand on the issue. Online poker is dominated by foreign companies, mostly doing business with British- or Caribbean-based financial institutions.

Since the passage of the law, many Internet gambling “banks” have pulled out of the US market, and several popular poker Web sites have shut down.

Is online poker dead? The best prediction is that Fahrenkopf is waiting for act two of the drama, when a bill is resubmitted that would legalize, tax, and regulate online poker. In the new configuration, the big players in the game may not be offshore companies but Farhrenkopf’s casino clients—many of whom have online sites ready to go.

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