Here's Sen. Reid's latest response on the poker issue to a constituent:
Dear Mr. ******:
Thank you for contacting me regarding online gaming. I appreciate hearing from you.
As a former gaming regulator, I believe that maintaining the integrity and fairness of the gaming industry – both on land and the Internet – requires strong and effective regulation. Though I have long opposed legalizing online gambling, after careful study, I have now come to the conclusion that the current state of affairs is the worst possible situation for consumers, regulators, and law enforcement officials. For over a decade, online websites offering Internet poker and other types of gambling have grown into a multi-billion dollar market. None of these sites are regulated by responsible U.S. regulators and none of them have an incentive to comply with basic consumer protections and gambling regulations – including prohibitions on underage gaming and gaming in states that have chosen to make it illegal. The bottom line is that, whether one supports or opposes regulated gambling, the current U.S. laws on this topic are outdated.
At the end of the last Congress, I worked on legislation that would make Internet gambling in general illegal, but legalize the already massive Internet poker market under a strict regulatory framework, while respecting the decisions of States that do not allow gambling. Under this legislation, experienced regulators would provide a secure and honest gaming environment to consumers, prohibit underage gambling, and ensure that providers have measures in place to prevent compulsive gambling. The bill would also strengthen enforcement of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) by giving more tools to law enforcement to shut down illegal sites. Nevada would be a key beneficiary of legalization. Nevada’s biggest employers have the trust of the American gaming public and the experience in understanding the gaming industry to be leaders in this field. And, the types of jobs associated with this high-tech industry would benefit the State – software engineers, information technology consultants, game designers, marketers, customer service representatives, etc. Unfortunately, we were unable to reach an agreement to consider this legislation before the close of the 111th Congress.
Similar bills have been introduced this Congress. On June 24, 2011, Representative Joe Barton (R-TX-6) introduced H.R. 2366, the Internet Gambling Prohibition, Poker Consumer Protection, and Strengthening UIGEA Act of 2011. H.R. 2366 was referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. On March 17, 2011, Representative John Campbell (R-CA-48) introduced H.R. 1174, the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act. H.R. 1174, which was referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. These bills would establish a federal regulatory and enforcement framework to license companies to accept bets and wagers online from individuals in the U.S., as permitted by individual states, Indian tribes and sport leagues.
In recent years, a number of states have increased their efforts in trying to offer online gambling. However, there have been serious questions about the legality of those activities under federal law. In particular, they have been thought to conflict with the Wire Act (18 U.S.C. § 1084), which has traditionally been viewed as outlawing the use of interstate wire communication facilities by those in the gambling business to transmit bets or information that assists in placing bets.
On Friday, December 23, 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released a memorandum opinion in which it clarified its stance on state online gambling under the Wire Act. The opinion specifically addressed the question of whether states could sell lottery tickets to in-state adults if the Internet transaction crosses state lines. The DOJ opinion concluded that this activity does not conflict with the Wire Act because, in its view, the Wire Act only prohibits online gambling related to sporting events or contests. Therefore, according to the DOJ, selling lottery tickets in this manner is permissible.
It is quite possible that the DOJ’s reading of the Wire Act could open the door to permitting states to conduct all types of non-sporting, online gambling. I believe that many problems would result from having a patchwork system of state laws on online gambling, and consumers could ultimately end up being hurt from such a system. For that reason, it is important for Congress to seriously consider enacting legislation to make online gambling legal at the federal level, where it can be uniformly regulated. If the Senate should consider any bills related to online gambling, please be assured that I will keep your views in mind.
Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
My best wishes to you.
United States Senator