In an interview with Laura Myers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the junior Senator of the state of Nevada, Republican Dean Heller, states that he expects a bill that will outlaw online gaming – except for poker – to make an appearance in the Senate next month. Furthermore, Heller says that his fellow Senator from Nevada, Senate Majority Leader/Democrat Harry Reid, is onboard with this option.
In the interview, Heller believes that the new legislation will put an end to what he calls “the Wild West” of individual states passing their own legislation regarding the issue. Citing the competition that such state initiatives would provide to the Nevada gaming industry, Heller said, “I think the devastation for brick and mortar (casinos) in this state would be a final nail in keeping these businesses healthy.”
When it comes to Reid’s involvement with the outlawing of online gaming, Heller says to Myers, “There is no daylight between where Senator Reid and myself are on this particular issue.” Myers reports that Heller and Reid are apparently wooing their fellow Senators on passing such anti-online gaming legislation, looking for them to perhaps take the lead. “We don’t want it to be just a Nevada issue,” Heller said. “Harry and I are trying to look for help from (other Senators in their parties) to come forward with legislation that provides a long term solution.”
While many have applauded Reid’s efforts to pass online gaming legislation in the U. S. Senate, there is a history of attempting to tamp it down rather than expand it. In 2012, Reid and then-Arizona Senator Jon Kyl (a longtime anti-online gaming advocate) tried to push a bill through the Senate that, while allowing for online poker, would basically ban any other type of online gaming. Kyl, in his last months as the senior Senator from Arizona, was looking to stop online gaming as much as possible, to the point of allowing for online poker (Heller says in the interview, “Games like poker, I think, take a little more skill”) in exchange for stoppage in other online gaming areas.
Heller also discussed the issues that face the warring factions of the casino industry regarding the online gaming question. He stated to Myers that Las Vegas Sands Corporation chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson, who has announced an all-out war on federal online gaming legislation (and, to a lesser extent, state-by-state actions), has “some reasonable concerns.” Heller ticks off several areas he believes that Adelson is correct, including problem and underage gaming. “To have the Wild Wild West as an empire of gambling for the country would have some serious social implications…I think that is what he is concerned with,” Heller said.
When it comes to the American Gaming Association, the trade group that lobbies for many of the B&M operations in Nevada (and that supports federal regulation), Heller believes that they are under the delusion that they can be profitable in the endeavor. “These are corporate entities and they believe they can play the game,” Heller says to Myers, “They’re corporate entities, they’ve got to keep shareholders happy. They’ve made the determination that they can compete in the market.”
The two factions have been battling it out since last summer, when Adelson initially made his anti-online gaming statements and created a lobbying group, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, with the express purpose of enacting a federal ban on the activity. He has since been joined by the owner of the Wynn Las Vegas, Steve Wynn, in looking for this ban, even though Wynn considers himself “on the fence” regarding the issue. The AGA has fought back somewhat with their own lobbying group, the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection, but it is the grassroots of poker players that have so far been the most effective voice against Adelson’s goals.