Senator Harry Reid

Recent Gambling Bill Hurts Federal Online Poker Efforts

Senator Harry ReidUnlike some countries, we here in the United States are allowed to openly criticize our government. I guess that is why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada felt comfortable voicing his recent and open criticism of a current House bill to legalize all forms of online gambling. Reid has been a longtime proponent of online poker, in both his state of Nevada and across the US, and he recently spoke with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington regarding efforts to federalize online gambling in general in the United States, and its impact to online poker passage specifically.

Following a Democratic strategy session on the Hill, Reid outlined his belief that a nationwide online gambling bill would mean that an online poker-specific piece of legislation at the federal level simply could not survive. A bill has been filed in the House of Representatives by Democratic Representative Peter King of New York which would legalize online casino table games like blackjack and craps, as well as poker and every other form of Internet casino gambling. Reid’s concerns is that the poker experience for US players would simply be a watered-down version of what a federal poker-only bill could deliver.

Poker is currently legal online at the state level in just Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey, with only Nevada recently offering actual online poker play. And while states currently have the right to decide their own online poker legislation and future, it is Reid’s belief that a federal law governing and regulating online poker specifically would provide the best possible experience for US citizens. He has repeatedly voiced his concerns about each individual state offering their own version of online poker, and this led him to present a federal online poker bill last year.

Many other states, notably California, New York and Pennsylvania, are currently pushing to pass their own form of statewide online poker legislation, hoping to cash in on what analysts and experts agree could be a cash cow at the state level. Nevada has wisely beat every other state to the punch, having already delivered online poker to its residents. This puts them as the forerunner in a billion industry, and they also recently legalized the ability to enter into interstate compacts and partnerships with other states, once those states legalize online poker themselves.

Reid does not believe that the King bill will pass because it offers across-the-board Internet casino gambling. He stated that this will cause those opposed to online gaming of any type to rally, and will effectively divide pro-gaming lawmakers into those groups that support poker only, and those that back a wide range of Internet gaming. When the Department of Justice in 2011 rethought their position on the 1961 Wire Act, they stated that online poker and online lottery sales could be legalized at the state level. Their ruling specifically excluded across-the-board casino gaming and sports betting, which is why the recent King bill stands little chance of passage, while simultaneously undermining federal online poker efforts.