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October 23, 2014

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Reid backs off criticism of Heller over online poker

Harry Reid

Harry Reid

Dean Heller

Dean Heller

Just a year ago, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid was busy making it his mission to prove that Nevada Sen. Dean Heller was inept at the delicate art of culling votes for Internet poker legislation.

Now that there’s no Shelley Berkley candidacy to defend, though, Reid can’t stop singing praises for Heller’s prowess in reviving the online gaming debate.

“This was a very, very good hearing,” Reid said of a meeting Heller ran this morning in the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection.

“I helped him prepare for this,” Reid said.

But just because Reid and Heller are all smiles doesn’t mean online poker has a clear path through Congress.

While there is near-universal concern about the security of online gambling, not everyone believes that online poker should get a special carve-out if Congress tries to walk back the Obama administration’s 2011 interpretation of the 1961 Wire Act.

That interpretation, which validated online gaming within individual states, irrevocably changed the climate around Internet gambling — so much so that some online poker advocates, such as Rep. Joe Barton, have given up the fight.

Barton released a poker bill Tuesday that is silent on the question of the 1961 Wire Act.

That doesn’t sit well with Reid, who politely threw water on Barton’s idea in an interview with Nevada reporters Wednesday.

“I don’t want to denigrate anybody that’s trying to do something well,’ Reid said. “That’s not my approach, but at least it’s an approach.”

In draft Internet poker legislation Reid and Heller were trying to sell to their colleagues last Congress, they envisioned a full walk-back of the 1961 Wire Act to the point of declaring all transactions for online gambling illegal, save for those facilitating online poker games.

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