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February 27, 2015

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Sun Editorial:

Forging a future

Nevada needs Congress to approve Reid’s online poker plan this year

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Dean Heller are at odds over the course of proposed online poker legislation in a dispute that has been dismissed by some as “political.” The issue is much more serious than that. How the nation moves on online gambling will shape Nevada’s future.

After last year’s Justice Department ruling that essentially defined the federal Wire Act as a ban on online sports betting but not Internet gambling in general, several states have lined up to cash in. Delaware has approved a law that could lead to virtual casinos, and several other states, including California, are considering following suit.

Nevada has approved regulations for online gaming, but it will only apply to gaming within the state. Having virtual casinos in other states will siphon off tourists. Instead of making a few visits to Las Vegas every year, they might cut it to one. Who needs to drive in from L.A. for a weekend when a trip to the couch with an iPad provides full casino action?

The gaming companies will go to the individual states and find ways to profit, but the workers in Nevada and the economy here won’t be so lucky. And it’s not just people who work in the casino industry. If there’s a downturn in tourism to Nevada, there’s a downturn to the entire economy.

Reid has been working diligently for the past few years to pass an online poker bill that would help preserve Nevada’s status as the premier place for gaming. The plan would update the Wire Act to outlaw online gaming except for poker, allowing a few states, including Nevada, to license and regulate online poker companies. The companies would be able to offer online poker nationwide.

Reid was working with Heller and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., to try to line up a filibuster-proof majority to pass the legislation this year. Reid lined up more than 40 Democratic votes, but the Republicans were unable to come through.

Instead, Heller wrote a letter to Reid last week telling him that the correct strategy would be to start the bill in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Such an action would essentially kill the legislation. The Republican leadership in the House has opposed online gaming, a position enshrined in their party’s platform this year.

The reality is that there are still illegal online gambling sites, and there is a significant public demand for online poker. And once states start regulating not just online poker but full online casinos — and reaping new tax dollars from them — don’t expect Congress to outlaw them. (They might as well try to pull the plug on state lotteries while they’re at it.)

The failure to act on Nevada’s behalf could seriously harm the state’s future. It also won’t help the nation. On the current course, there will be a patchwork of state regulations on Internet gaming, and that could lead to real problems with the proliferation of full-scale virtual casinos. States with little to no experience with gaming aren’t going to be able to muster the regulatory power needed to weed out shady operators looking to fleece people.

Reid’s proposal should be pursued quickly before this becomes a serious problem. It limits online gaming and wisely puts regulation into the hands of experts. The plan also offers a way to protect Nevada’s economy and opens up a great possibility: With the state’s history and expertise, Nevada should become the hub for online poker technology and regulation, and that could bring a cluster of technology companies here, giving the economy a boost.

That’s a real vision for the future. This has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with helping Nevadans. We hope Heller can find a way to work with Reid and get this plan passed this year.

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  1. The reality, there are too many important national issues for congress to settle. Getting approval for online poker is not a priority for the nation!

    There is a no dispute of the amount of money online poker potentially can generate. The tax revenue would help many states and the Federal Government. Let's be realistic, congress will not pass any legislation that will allow national online poker or online gaming. Harry Reid and Dean Heller do not have the support to pass anything, let along online poker.

    The best the industry can hope for is to leave in place what's in place now. State approval. This is it for now. Don't expect congress to approve any online gaming or online poker in the next 10 years! That you can be sure of.

  2. I am totally against online poker in any form. It is certainly not good for the people of our country, wherever they are from. Why do we insist on making it easier to gamble? This only results in more money wasted for the person participating and more profits for the rich casino owners of such sites. Online gamblers are not spending tourist money on airfare, gasoline, rooms or food. They are throwing money away online. How stupid is that? There should be NO online gambling - EVER.

  3. As an occasional poker player I am torn on this issue.

    But speaking as a software engineer with over 15 years experience dealing with age verification and credit card fraud I have real concerns over how anyone can claim they can prevent underage gambling online. In my experience, it is impossible to achieve 100% compliance with today's technology in real time.

    I am also somewhat sensitive to arguments involving gambling addiction, but will grant that this falls largely under personal responsibility. That said, I might adopt a different position if it can be shown that an addiction is in fact a medical/genetic condition that is essentially beyond conscious control.

    Given that several other States are taking steps to get in on the ground floor, this might well be a case of "just lay back and enjoy it."

  4. Reid works for the same bunch who run Nevada now, brick and mortar Casinos. This effort is not really about opening up opportunity, it is about making darn sure the online gaming industry is run by the same Monopolies Reid has worked 4 decades for.

    Remember Reid ran the Mob out and opened the door to these Corporations. The ones charging people $4 for water.

    I am all for total legalization, period. If the market deems Nevada Casinos safe and reputable, then let the market of players decide that not Harry Reid and his bunch. If they can do the job players will gladly pay for them to host.

  5. This is so reminiscent of Napster and digital music. People like Reid take the position some of the record company executives did: fearing for their profits, they sought to tilt the table in their favor with digital rights management. Epic fail. Heller is like the old fat men running the big labels that tried to litigate and legislate file sharing to death. That worked out well also. NEITHER approach did the smart thing (the thing Apple did with iTunes) which is to reinvent the industry, innovate, create and generate wealth while the anachronisms watched their fortunes wane.

    Both of these "representatives" should get with the times or retire. We need legislation that allows Nevada to lead in the innovation and security of gambling on line. World-wide, on-line casino gambling WILL happen. Who is going to own it, who is going to innovate it and who is going to be the "play'a" is all that is to be determined.

    PS - The guy who sits around in his skivvies in his sad L.A. apartment, playing on-line poker on his iPad all weekend is no threat to Vegas. That guy wasn't coming anyway, because you don't come to Vegas to play real poker: it is too different. People come to Vegas for Vegas.