Over the weekend, U.S. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV, pictured) offered American online poker players hope that a Federal solution to licensing and regulation the game will come to fruition within the year.
After appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Reid was met outside the studios by Tony Batt of GamblingCompliance.com. Reid stated to Batt that the change of the U.S. Department of Justice’s stance regarding the Wire Act of 1961 should help to push efforts in Congress to pass Federal regulation of online poker.
“It’ll give us an incentive to get something done,” Reid told Batt as he left the “Meet the Press” studios. The senior Nevada Senator then outlined his reluctance to see any regulation of online poker done on a state-by-state basis: “We cannot have a series of laws around the country related to gaming. I know a lot about gaming… I’m a former chairman of the Nevada (Gaming) Commission and I think it’s very important that we have a national law.”
Reid indicated to GamingCompliance.com that he is in negotiations with Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ, pictured), who is not seeking reelection in November and has been a stalwart in the fight against online gaming. Those negotiations are “making progress,” according to Reid, but it is unclear when such legislation would make its way to the floor of the Senate.
Speculation has been rampant that any proposed online poker legislation could potentially be attached to a bill to extend the Federal payroll tax legislation, which could come next month. The Federal payroll tax “holiday” was a hotly contested issue in December.
Reid would not speculate on such a possibility of the online poker legislation being a “rider” on the payroll tax bill, saying, “I’m not going to get into how we’re going to get it done… We’re going to work together to get it.”
Reid and Kyl were, in part, the catalysts behind the change in the stance of the Justice Department’s views on online gaming. Last July, the two Senators sent a letter to the Justice Department asking for a reaffirmation of its position that all internet gaming, including online poker, was illegal under the Wire Act. GamblingCompliance.com opines that it was an attempt by Reid and Kyl to discourage states from their efforts to open up intrastate online gaming options.
When the Department of Justice came out in December clarifying its stance on the Wire Act of 1961 – that the law only presumably applied to sports betting – GamblingCompliance.com quoted Joe Kelly, a business law professor at SUNY College in Buffalo, as saying, “Be careful of what you ask for, you just might get it.”
There are several reasons behind Kelly’s statement. By indicating that the Wire Act was only applicable to sports betting, the door was opened for the legalization of online gaming, lotteries, and bingo operations. The problem for the Federal Government, however, is that the DOJ’s clarification seemingly invited all 50 states to move on the issue; states could potentially move quicker to enact legislation than the Federal Government could.
Fifty different licenses for each state, and their differing regulations, could create a nightmare for potential gaming companies looking to get into the business, whereas a single Federal set of regulations would likely be more appealing to operators.
As of now, locales including Nevada and the District of Columbia have already adopted legislation for internet gaming within their borders, while several other states are preparing to step into the online gaming and poker business, including Iowa and California. Nevada is already vetting potential licensees.
Stay tuned to PocketFives for the latest poker legislation news.