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November 26, 2014

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Professional poker player files to run for Congress

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WSOP/Harrah's

Frank Kassela, a poker pro from Memphis, Tenn., poses with the first of two World Series of Poker bracelets he won this summer, July 12, 2010.

A Las Vegas professional poker player wants to represent Nevada in Congress.

Frank Kassela, a business owner who has won millions of dollars playing poker, filed paperwork last week to run for Congress as a Democrat in Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District, which encompasses southern Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City.

His entrance to the race sets up a Democratic primary contest, the winner of which will face Republican incumbent Joe Heck. Kassela will vie against Erin Bilbray, a Democrat who has already raised more than $250,000 and has the backing of many Democratic Party operatives and elected officials.

The primary election is June 3.

Bilbray welcomed Kassela into the race in a tweet Monday morning.

“Welcome to race! I look forward to seeing you on the trail,” she tweeted.

Kassela replied in a tweet that he is “looking forward to a spirited conversation” and said he’d see Bilbray on the campaign trail.

Kassela was registered to vote as a Republican until Oct. 22. According to campaign finance documents, he’s donated to Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians, giving thousands of dollars to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Herman Cain, among others.

In 2004, he gave two $500 donations to the National Republican Congressional Committee, an organization that seeks to elect Republicans to Congress and has recently been on the offensive against Bilbray.

Kassela owns several businesses in Tennessee, Texas and Nevada, including Scrubtastic, a medical supply company.

He also used to own Mid-American Specialties, an office supply company in Memphis, Tenn.

A U.S. District Court jury found that the company was guilty of sexual harassment and retaliatory practices in a $1.5 million verdict in 2011 that stemmed from an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit against Mid-American Specialties.

Kassela is from Tennessee, where he first began to play poker before moving to Las Vegas more than a decade ago.

He has won several World Series of Poker tournaments and was the 2010 World Series of Poker player of the year.

Kassela did not return a phone call to his treasurer, Christina Cicatello, an email to the address listed on his Federal Election Commission candidacy filing, a tweet sent to his personal twitter account, and a message on his campaign website on Monday afternoon.

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