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April 17, 2014

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PokerStars took lawmakers to Bahamas, England before Internet gaming bill introduced

PokerStars, the web poker giant trying to get its business legalized in Nevada, persuaded the bill sponsor to travel to London before he introduced the controversial bill. William Horne, the Assembly Judiciary chairman and majority whip, traveled with Commerce Chairman Kelvin Atkinson late last year on a trip intended to end on the Isle of Man, the Internet company’s headquarters. Because of inclement weather, they never made it to the Isle of Man, and spent two days at a satellite office in London with company officials and lobbyist Richard Perkins, the former speaker.

A couple of months later, PokerStars hosted state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford in Nassau, Bahamas, where a conference was being held.

Horne’s bill is in limbo, although he told me today a compromise with state gaming interests, who along with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid say the feds should act first, may be at hand – I can’t imagine it is one that would allow PokerStars to do business here, but Horne insists it would not gut his bill. We’ll see.

Horne scoffed at the notion the trip was a junket, saying, “It was productive. They made a good presentation.”

Shortly after he returned, Horne prepared the bill Perkins wanted and introduced it.

Horsford said he was invited on the UK trip last year but could not attend. He said the company asked him to attend the Nassau conference so he flew in from New York where he was on other business in January, right before the session began.

Horsford said he went “to learn more about Internet gaming policy before federal and state governments. I returned with a better understanding of how to continue to position Nevada as the international leader in the gaming industry."

Horsford said he is neutral for now on Horne’s bill and is concerned about the federal issue raised by Reid and others.

Speaker John Oceguera also was invited on the trip to the UK, but declined, a source confirmed.

Perkins refused to answer any questions about the trips.

The main question, besides the appearance issue, is this: Couldn't these lawmakers have learned all they needed to know by, say, going on the Internet?

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