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Harry Reid offering hope for Internet poker

23 Jan 2012

By Steve Tetreault
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has given online poker players fresh hope for federal legislation that would legalize their games.

Reid told a reporter for a gaming news service that the Department of Justice ruling that has some states angling to operate poker websites will also impel Congress to get moving on a bill to set regulations at the federal level.

“It’ll give us an incentive to get something done,” Reid told Gambling Compliance website reporter Tony Batt, who camped outside NBC studios in Washington while the Senate majority leader was taping “Meet the Press” last Sunday. Batt previously wrote about gaming policy from Washington for the Review-Journal.

“We cannot have a series of laws around the country related to gaming,” Reid said. “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’s remarks were notable in part because he has said next to nothing publicly while forming potential online gaming legislation with input from Nevada casino giants like Caesars Entertainment Corp., and MGM Resorts that are hungry to tap the Internet for revenue.

Reid told Batt he was “making progress” with negotiating partner Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., but declined to tip his strategy, including whether he might try to insert gaming provisions into an upcoming bill to extend a reduction in Social Security payroll taxes.

“I’m not going to get into how we’re going to get it done,” Reid said. “We’re going to work together to get it.”

The Justice Department ruling on Dec. 23 shook up the gaming world. In it, the department revised its interpretation of the federal Wire Act of 1961, previously thought to make all forms of Internet wagers illegal.

Justice attorneys now say the federal restriction applies only to sports betting, a softer reading that analysts say opens the door for states to sell lottery tickets online, and more.

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