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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Sen. Harry Reid Possibly Considering Online Poker Bill

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One of the biggest opponents in Congress to legalized and regulated online gaming legislation has been Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, but recent speculation indicates that he may have changed his tone on the subject. According to a London-based stockbroker, Reid is in the midst of preparing a Senate bill that would legalize online poker but exclude casino games and sports wagering via the internet.

It has been said that Reid’s staunch opposition to past proposed online gaming regulation, such as Barney Frank’s effort resulted from his close ties with Nevada casinos, many of which feel that online gaming will hurt their land-based businesses. However, since poker doesn’t produce much of their revenue, casinos that may donate quite a bit of money to the Reid Senate campaign could be persuaded to go along with online poker. And Reid’s support of regulated online poker could satisfy many legislators and lobbying groups with a specific interest in legalizing online poker.

The word about Reid’s possible actions came from the Proactive Investors website, based in the UK, which spoke to stockbroker Daniel Stewart about the future of online gaming in the United States. The April 19th article built on speculation that Reid and fellow Congresspersons are preparing a bill that “could be introduced into the Senate within the next three months and ready for approval by the President during H2 2010.” Noting that the American Gaming Association opened its doors to the idea of online gaming just last month, along with conjecture that MGM and Wynn casinos may have changed their minds regarding online poker, Stewart said that the industry as a whole could embrace the idea as long as casino games and sports betting were out of the mix.

Further speculation from Stewart suggested that European-based online poker companies could benefit the most from the plan, as they left the U.S. market when the UIGEA passed and have not been in any perceived violation of the laws. Even PartyGaming was able to settle with the U.S. Department of Justice for millions of dollars to clear its name and possibly clear the way to be one of the first companies allowed a gaming license in the U.S.

Online poker blog Pokerati was one of the first to pick up the story from the UK news site and claimed that its sources in Washington D.C., those of the “highly reliable sort,” unofficially confirmed that Reid is indeed working on such an online poker-specific bill. Pokerati’s Dan Michalski went on to speculate about an interesting scenario. With Full Tilt Poker currently being targeted by the Department of Justice and the U.S. government seemingly intent upon shutting down operations of such sites in America under current law, the market would be cleared, making way for a new law. Under such legislation, companies who have not violated any laws, such as Harrah’s and MGM, would have first crack at licenses to operate online poker businesses, with European companies offered the second round of licenses. Casinos that Reid seeks to please might see the benefits of such a set-up.

Whatever the discussions behind closed doors, should Reid decide to propose and push online poker legislation, the Senate Majority Leader might have the best chance of gathering support of fellow members of Congress and pushing the bill through to passage. If Stewart is correct, the poker industry’s eyes should be open for movement on the subject within the next few months, coincidentally at the time of the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.

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