Updated: Senator Harry Reid Pushes Legalization of Online Poker – Even the Left is Dissatisfied
Basically, this is Harry Reid taking a moment during the frantic lame duck session to pass the So Long And Thanks For All The Money I Used To Defeat The Crazy Lady Running Against Me Act of 2010. Reid had hitherto been opposed to online poker — not because the industry preys on “the young, the weak and the vulnerable in the name of new revenues to cover more government spending,” as Alabama Representative Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) complains — but because the rise of online poker would impact the business of the people preying on the young and the weak and the vulnerable who come out to Las Vegas’ blasted heath of foreclosed homes to help prove the adage “the house always wins.” So why is he suddenly going to the mat for online poker?
According to the draft of the bill reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Reid’s office is considering language that would allow only existing casinos, horse tracks and slot-machine makers to operate online poker websites for the first two years after the bill passes, which could limit the ability of other companies to enter the market.
Only existing establishments, eh? Be assured that the casinos went all in for Reid. Ryan Grim put Reid on the couch in a profile around Election Day: “Reid’s opacity masks what is, at bottom, a simple approach to life. It may seem odd that a Mormon convert and a teetotaler who doesn’t gamble has been elected to represent Las Vegas for decades. But Las Vegas is an explicitly transactional town, with cash and connections as currency, from the bell hop and the call girl to the mine owner and hotel/casino magnate. It’s a place where status and political power can be purchased for a price, regardless of the buyer’s background, upbringing, pedigree or criminal record. Washington is, at root, the same, although with a gloss of sophistication to make it appear a high-minded civic pursuit.”
In another attempt to pay back constituencies that helped him win re-election in November, Nevada Senator and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has proposed legislation legalizing online poker.
Staffers for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are circulating a bill to legalize poker playing on the Internet that’s backed by large casino interests.
The Nevada casino companies pushing the measure were among the Democrat’s biggest donors during his fierce re-election fight. They argue the bill would provide consumer protection for poker players and would provide some tax revenue for federal and state governments.
On Wednesday, three Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Mr. Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) opposing any efforts to pass Internet poker legislation during the lame-duck session.
“Congress should not take advantage of the young, the weak and the vulnerable in the name of new revenues to cover more government spending,” Rep. Spencer Bachus (R., Ala.), the ranking Republican member of the House Financial Services Committee and others wrote.
Dingy Harry Reid is paying back Harrah’s, now Caesar’s Entertainment, who mounted a massive GOTV effort during his November campaign. Caesar’s owns the World Series of Poker brand and already has online real money poker sites in Europe and Canada. They are poised to enter the American market should enabling legislation be enacted.
Alan Feldman, a spokesman for MGM Resorts International, a large Las Vegas-based casino company, said he hoped such a bill had a possibility of rushing through in the next few weeks. “A lot of things happen in this kind of time frame,” he said.
Internet gambling has been a top priority for the Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment Corp., which recently changed its name from Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. and is the largest casino company in the world by revenue. The company owns the popular World Series of Poker brand that it hopes to parlay into online success to make up for anemic growth in its U.S. casino markets.
So, what will the proposed bill do?
1. Overturn UIGEA.
2. Provide legislation for poker-only.
3. Limit legal internet gaming to allow only existing casinos, horse tracks and slot-machine makers to operate online poker websites for the first two years after the bill passes. Its unclear what they are proposing to do with Full Tilt, Poker Stars, Ultimate Bet and the like rogue offshore sites during the time-out.
4. Outsource oversight of internet gambling to the *state* government.
5. Earmark revenue on wager to both state and federal governments.
BJ Nemeth poker photographer extraordinaire has his analysis here and raises the obligatory questions, particularly about the existing off-shore poker sites, where all Americans play illegally.
I think the odds of this bill passing are remote since the Democrats are playing games with the Bush era tax rates and no Senate action will proceed until this issue is resolved.
Could this legislation be rolled into the continuing resolution which is necessary to continue the government?
Possibly as a compromise provision, especially if Harry Reid gives up something like the DREAM Act. But, the DREAM Act is another pay back from Reid to another Nevada constituency which was instrumental in his re-election – the Latinos.
So, stay tuned…..