Odds improving for online poker?

Two Las Vegas gambling powerhouses, MGM Resorts and Boyd Gaming, are betting that Congress will legalize online poker — a development that could have deep ramifications for the casino gambling bill currently pending on Beacon Hill.

Today’s Wall Street Journal reports that MGM and Boyd have signed partnership agreements with Bwin.party, a designer of online gambling platforms. The agreements would enable both gaming operators to quickly flip the switch on online poker websites, should Congress vote to legalize online poker. Their maneuvering now suggests that Congress is seriously considering the move.

Last month, Politico reported that US Reps. Barney Frank and Joe Barton were jointly maneuvering to have online poker inserted into a must-pass compromise that will be forthcoming from the Congressional deficit supercommittee. Frank and Barton are both dangling the promise of significant non-tax revenues, on the order of $40 billion over ten years, in front of the supercommittee. Senate leader Harry Reid had previously tried to insert online poker legalization into a critical taxation bill. The measure’s staunchest opponent, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, appears to be softening as the supercommittee scrambles to reduce the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion, Politico added.

Frank had previously said the $444 million Full Tilt Poker Ponzi scheme demonstrated the need to legalize and regulate online gambling. Florida, Nevada, California, and Washington, DC, are all weighing legalizing intrastate online gambling — a fact that might force Congress’s hand in regulating interstate online gambling.

The machinations bear watching as Beacon Hill leaders enter the final stretch in negotiations to legalize casino gambling in Massachusetts. Beacon Hill leadership has articulated revenue projections, promised jobs, and assigned a value to the state’s three casino licenses based on the size of the Bay State’s gambling market. But the size of that market, and the revenue it will produce, will change if competition increases.

Maine, Rhode Island, and New York are all contemplating increased gambling in response to the Massachusetts casino bill. The nationwide legalization of online poker would add another competitive wrinkle to what was supposed to be a sure bet.

                                                                                                                                                            –PAUL MCMORROW

BEACON HILL

The Supreme Judicial Court has appointed the former head of the Boston Bar Association to carry out a review of district court judge practices in the wake of a Boston Globe Spotlight Team report that Massachusetts judges acquit drunken driving defendants at an extraordinary high rate.

State officials say about 1 percent of the $9.6 billion spent on Medicaid claims last year covered services for immigrants who couldn’t prove their legal status, the Lynn Item reports (via State House News).

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Governing magazine names Nigel Jacob and Chris Osgood, cochairs of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, public officials of the year.

Boston is eliminating 70 metered parking spots on Massachusetts Ave. to make way for a new bike lane.

Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch, whose 2007 and 2009 races were among the top in the state for mayoral campaign spending for cities other than Boston, has raised and spent nearly a quarter million dollars since January to retain his office, 10 times the amount as his challenger, Anne Mahoney.

In an editorial, the Lowell Sun presses for release of the names of the finalists for the city treasurer’s position that went to the golfing buddy of the city’s chief financial officer. The paper says the hiring process needs to be more transparent.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

With time fast running out, it appears ideological differences are stalling the “super committee” and keeping its members from finding common ground in efforts to agree on $1.2 trillion in cuts to reduce the federal deficit.

The White House will just say no to marijuana legalization.

California legalizes online voter registration.

The New York Times looks at the influx of homeless populations into Occupied cities.

ELECTION 2012

Eleanor Clift, writing for The Daily Beast, examines Herman Cain’s jovial denial of sexual harassment, although he admits a settlement was paid out. And this just in: Candidate “9-9-9” couldn’t care less about you. Ed Kilgore, in The New Republic, thinks Cain could wind up a big winner from the shakily-sourced harassment story. Wendy Kaminer and Margery Eagan both say that sex scandals are old hat, and the focus should be more on Cain’s completely unworkable policy positions. (And speaking of…) Slate watches the Cain machine spring into reactive action.

Gov. Rick Perry, who regularly releases his tax returns and has a history of challenging his opponents to do the same, is calling on Mitt Romney to free his 1040, something the former Bay State governor and longtime 1 percenter has never done.

A group of Virginia Republican county officials stir outrage after they circulate an image of President Obama as a zombie with a bullet hole through his head.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A top oil executive will pocket a $100 million severance package even though he’s not leaving the company, public radio’s Marketplace reports. The Wall Street Journal reports other executives are in line for similar payouts.

The Globe travels to a North Texas town whose gain is Boston’s loss. The tiny town of Westlake, population 1,000, is one several spots across the country where Fidelity Investments has seized on tax breaks and other incentives to open major offices while shedding its Boston workforce by some 5,000 over the last five years.

On second thought, Mark Zuckerberg says, he should have kept Facebook in Boston where it was born.

The price of a potential nationwide foreclosure settlement has climbed to $25 billion, and could reach as high as $29 billion.

EDUCATION

Bristol Community College and Massasoit Community College signed an articulation agreement that guarantees acceptance for some students to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s health services program and waives some credit requirements.

A new school year, a new Boston Globe story on Boston school superintendent Carol Johnson’s growing reputation for backtracking on big initiatives after announcing them.  

TRANSPORTATION

Will JetBlue be fined under federal regulations for keeping passengers stranded on a airplane for more than three hours (for a total of seven hours) at Bradley International Airport in Hartford?

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

State energy secretary Richard Sullivan, along with a Foxborough resident without power, discuss the outages in the wake of the weekend storm on Greater Boston and the utilities’ response to get the power back on for 600,000 customers in Massachusetts. Sen. Scott Brown demands an explanation from power companies. Keller@Large wonders if we can bury the power lines that keep getting felled by trees and consistently causing the outages. The MetroWest Daily News says the state needs to get to the bottom of the problem with utilities and their miserable responses to storm outages.

And if the kids didn’t get enough free candy last night, bring them out west where a number of towns rescheduled Halloween for Saturday because of the outages.

Western Massachusetts Electric Company says the lights should be back out in metro Springfield later this week: There are more utility and tree crews on the ground than during the 2008 ice storm or Tropical Storm Irene. More personal stories here.

Meanwhile, The Berkshire Eagle invokes climate change and cautions that weather that seems freakish now may become the norm.

MEDIA

Without power at its home office, staff members at the Lowell Sun packed up their computers and headed to the newspaper’s Devens production plant to put out today’s edition.

The St. Petersburg Times is changing its name to the Tampa Bay Times.