Lawmaker calls for probe of PokerStars website

LAS VEGAS (AP) - State Sen. Greg Brower is calling for a state and federal investigation into the political activities of one of three online gambling companies whose American operations have been shut down and seized by the U.S. Justice Department.

The Reno Republican questioned overseas-based PokerStars' presence in Nevada because of its political action committee's doling out of $272,000 in campaign contributions in the state last year, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

PokerStars, whose founder is among 11 people charged with bank fraud, money laundering and operating illegal gambling businesses in a nine-count federal indictment unsealed Friday, is the primary backer of Assembly Bill 258, which seeks to legalize Internet poker in Nevada.

Brower, who was U.S. attorney for Nevada from 2007 to 2009, said federal law prohibits foreign contributions to federal, state and local campaigns, but Nevada law is unclear.

"The fact that a foreign company which has been charged with operating a criminal enterprise could play such a large role in Nevada campaigns is troubling," he said in a statement. "I am reviewing this issue with legislative counsel and plan to introduce legislation, if necessary, to ensure that any loopholes in our state law are immediately closed."

According to a filing with the Secretary of State's office, PokerStars' PAC made the $272,000 in contributions to 68 legislative candidates, constitutional officers, political party PACs and legislative caucuses. The contributions, made between Sept. 23 and Oct. 18, ranged from $1,000 to $10,000.

The PAC donated $10,000 to Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and his Democratic rival, Rory Reid.

Mike Slanker, who worked for the Sandoval campaign, told the Review-Journal the donation was returned last week after an internal investigation showed the PAC had one contributor "who was not an American citizen."

Also receiving $10,000 campaign contributions from PokerStars were Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, and Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas. The PAC also gave $10,000 to the Assembly Democratic Caucus, the Assembly Republican Caucus and the Senate Republican Caucus.

Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, who introduced AB258, received a $7,500 contribution from the PAC.

The company hired former Nevada Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins to lobby for passage of AB258, the Review-Journal reported. The company also hired former Nevada gambling regulators Randall Sayre and Scott Scherer to help gain support for the bill.

Horne and Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, traveled to England last year to see the company's facilities on a trip arranged by Perkins.

Brower said he plans to talk to U.S. Justice Department officials and Nevada authorities to determine whether federal and state investigations into PokerStars' activities in Nevada are warranted.

"Nevada's gaming industry and regulatory regime are the very best in the world, and it is critical that we take swift action to ensure that we maintain the unquestioned integrity of both," he said.


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