Las Vegas Sun

April 17, 2014

Currently: 63° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Harry Reid pushes bill to allow for online gambling

Click to enlarge photo

Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is pushing behind the scenes for lame-duck legislation that would allow poker games over the Internet but restrict initial licenses to casinos and racetrack operators that have been in businesses at least five years.

Some of the biggest casino operators in Reid's home state of Nevada are eager to get a piece of the online gambling industry, which generates an estimated $5 billion a year for offshore operators.

A congressional aide familiar with the issue said Reid aides were circulating the draft legislation, and a copy of it was obtained by The Associated Press. The aide was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and did so only on condition of anonymity.

Four years ago, Congress effectively banned online gambling, passing legislation that prohibits banks and credit card companies from making payments to gambling websites. Supporters of online poker face less opposition with Democrats in charge of both chambers for another month. The House Financial Services Committee this year approved a bill that established a regulatory structure for online gambling.

Reid's office would not answer questions about the legislation.

But sensing that supporters are in a hurry to lift the ban, three leading Republicans in the House wrote to Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., this week to say they oppose any attempt to legalize Internet gambling during the current legislative session.

They said using online gaming to generate revenue for the federal government would bring social and economic harm to many families.

"Congress should not take advantage of the young, the weak and the vulnerable in the name of new revenues to cover more government spending," Republican Reps. Spencer Bachus of Alabama, Dave Camp of Michigan and Lamar Smith of Texas said in the letter. Bachus is in line to become chairman of the Financial Services Committee next month, Camp will take over the Ways and Means Committee and Smith is expected to head the Judiciary Committee. The three committees have jurisdiction over Internet gambling matters.

Most of the legislative work this year concerning online gambling has taken place in the House, where supporters say that prohibition didn't work with alcohol and it's not working with online gambling. People continue to participate but in an underground, unregulated market.

"We are not talking about an activity that harms others where we properly step in," Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the current Financial Services chairman, said at a hearing this year. "We are talking about a decision by adults to do what they want with their own money."

Under the draft legislation circulated to various Senate offices, states and Indian tribes would oversee regulation of the online poker license-holders.

Casino companies were among Reid's biggest campaign donors in the last election. MGM Resorts International, through its employees and political action committee, donated $192,000 to his campaign, the most of any single company, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Meanwhile, employees and the PAC at Harrah's Entertainment chipped in an additional $83,100. Harrah's recently changed its name to Caesars Entertainment Corp.

Poker's popularity has soared in recent years, with casinos around the country regularly sponsoring poker tournaments, some of which are shown on television. The winner of this year's World Series of Poker in Las Vegas won nearly $9 million. The tournament featured more than 7,300 players willing to pay a $10,000 entry fee.

With online poker, players generally deposit money into an account through their credit card. They join a table with other players following along on their computer. A software program deals cards to each participant. And when it's time to bet, the program automatically prompts a player to bet, hold or fold. The program also keeps a running tab of how many chips a player accumulates or lose. When players have finished their game, they click on a cashier tab that shows how much a player's account has increased or decreased.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 3 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. As a Harry Reid supporter and volunteer campaigner who opposed Sharron Angle because of her extremist views and bias towards the rich, I disagree with Harry Reid's policy that this is good for NV. Online gambling will not increase jobs here in NV as far as the population is concerned. The internet provision will allow the large gaming corporations to make more profit but not to create more jobs. I do agree with the opposition that this is one more bad habit that will suck out the money out of the middle class and the poor, similar to the lottery systems in various states. Gambling is already allowed in many states thus Reno and Las Vegas are already losing revenue and jobs, so this poker internet legalization will be another reason not to visit our state.
    Senator Harry Reid can do a lot more for NV and the U.S. by:

    1) Proposing a bill to make illegal outsourcing of American jobs and/or put taxation on the differential in pay that an American company pays to employees overseas versus what the employee would get paid here in the U.S. This would create at least a few million jobs.
    2) Push for the conversion of our automobiles here in the U.S. to natural gas; which will decrease our deficit; promote manufacturing of natural gas conversion kits, cylinders, installation and testing thus creating additional employment; will decrease the cost of fuel, $/mile traveled, (if natural gas prices are regulated at various points); promote a healthier planet by decreasing carbon dioxide emissions significantly; and increase employment in the natural gas industry.
    3) As far as NV as concerned, as everyone knows, the U.S. government owns more real estate as a % of total land area here in NV, then in any other state, thus the government should launch a project called an Energy & Mineral Survey of the U.S. This will start new employment for a lot of the unemployed people and if a grid type exploration survey is conducted will also give the government a good idea of additional energy and mineral resources of our country. I am sure that from this survey we will find out that our country is quite independent as far as energy and mineral resources are concerned. Thereafter, the USBLM can disclose the results and sell leases for selected parcels of land thus generating revenue for the government.

  2. Mobashir,

    I have some bad news for you, people are already spending BILLIONS OF DOLLARS gambling on line but it is all leaving our country.

    If on line poker was made legal, but ran by main stream gaming companies then there would be taxes and more regulation to protect the players and owners alike.

    You are not going to see a single penny drop in real life gaming if they approve on line poker.

    Facts are facts. If no one was gaming on line now your whole post would make sense but it means nothing since most of the country is already gaming on line.

    The United States is missing out on taxes at this point on BILLIONS OF DOLLARS.

  3. Expanded Online gaming will only bring down more of the weak among us. At least one has to physacally go to a casino or lottery outlet now to do their legal gambling. With this, they will simply max out their credit card without ever walking out the front door of their house. I am aware that offshore online gaming is going on now. Maybe the regulators can somehow block (or severly limit) credit card transactios to these offshore firms, effectively shutting them down to the U.S. market. No doubt, while one spouse is working at a job, the other can be at home online burning through the cash at a faster rate than it is being earned. I'm typically not a "regulation" type, but online gaming serves absolutely NO good purpose.