On Friday, the Wall Street Journalpublished an article about the efforts by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV, pictured) to legalize and regulate online poker. Reid is “circulating” a bill dubbed the Internet Poker Act of 2010 and, as its name implies, the measure would solely bring legalized online poker to the United States. It also states that only existing land-based gambling companies will be able to offer poker to U.S. residents for the first two years.
The Journal noted that one of the primary proponents of the bill is Caesars Entertainment, which is based in Nevada: “has been a top priority for the Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment Corp., which recently changed its name from Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. and is the largest casino company in the world by revenue. The company owns the popular World Series of Poker brand that it hopes to parlay into online success to make up for anemic growth in its U.S. casino markets.” The Journal added that MGM was also in support of Reid’s bill.
Among those weighing in on poker-only bill was Poker Players Alliance(PPA) Executive Director John Pappas, who told PocketFives.com on Friday, “We have always stated that there was an opportunity to get a bill through during the lame duck session. I don’t think we should start dancing in the streets. There is a serious and deliberate process and we need to ensure that the interests of the poker community are properly addressed in any bill that moves. With that said, we remain hopeful that something can be accomplished in the coming days and weeks.”
Reid will retain his post as Senate Majority Leader when the new Congress convenes in January. However, on the other end of the Capitol, Republicans will gain control of the House of Representatives. In the House, current Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA, pictured) introduced HR 2267, which creates a full licensing and regulatory framework for the internet gambling industry in the United States. The bill passed out of Frank’s Committee in July, but has not yet seen the light of day in front of the full House.
Among those questioning the future of Reid’s efforts to legalize online poker was Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association(iMEGA) Chairman Joe Brennan, who told PocketFives.com, “The reason why the UIGEA made it through in 2006 is because it had a zealous, dedicated core of legislators who wanted it, a lot of apathy by everyone else, and a lot of stealth. There is zero stealth here. If Reid’s bill is going to pass by tacking it onto something like the tax bill, it’s now so high-profile that everyone will see it coming.”
The UIGEA was attached in the final minutes of the 2006 Congressional session to an unrelated port security measure at the urging of then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN). Brennan gave his take on the proponents of anti-internet gambling legislation like the one that passed four years ago: “They truly believe that gambling is immoral. Jon Kyl (R-AZ, pictured) held up three Treasury nominations because he was upset about the delay of the UIGEA’s regulations. Kyl is obviously on the lookout for it and so are a lot of other people. It’s difficult to ‘Frist’ it when it’s very public.”
The bill also prohibits U.S.-based gambling companies from acquiring the assets of sites that currently serve the market like PokerStarsand Full Tilt. In essence, according to Brennan, the world’s largest online poker rooms may be shut out of the United States for the first two years of the bill’s enactment. However, Brennan explained, “At the end of the day, it’s still a steep hill for it to climb. Time is unfortunately running out.”
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