As he prepares to retire, Nevada Senator and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has been the recipient of many glowing tributes since he announced he wouldn’t seek reelection in 2016. Reid, however, is looking towards leaving a legacy with a move that is sure to draw the ire of the online poker and gaming world.
In an interview with radio station KNPR’s “State of Nevada” program, Reid was the guest as he discussed his time in the Senate. After receiving a phone call from President Barack Obama and receiving congratulations for his efforts in the Senate, discussing his potential successor in the legislative body and situations that face daily life for those in the Silver State, the conversation turned towards GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson and his push for a federal ban regarding online gaming and poker.
The reply Reid gave to the KNPR hosts was as much stunning as it was angering. After years of allegedly attempting to push through federal online poker regulations (even joining forces with now-retired Arizona Senator Jon Kyl on a proposed bill that never saw the light of day in 2012), Reid stated to the hosts that “online gaming is not good for our country” and that “for the state of Nevada, online gaming is not the direction we should go.” Reid continued on to say that he would be for any legislation coming out of the House of Representatives that looks to ban the activity. If that legislation were to pass out of the House, Reid said the Senate would “give it a good hard try” to push it through.
The reason for the surprise at the change of tone from Reid is that, previous to the radio interview with KNPR, he had seemingly always been in the corner of pro-online gaming and poker forces. In addition to his efforts in 2012 with former Senator Kyl to push through federal online poker regulation, Reid has consistently led the efforts in the Senate to pass federally regulated gaming, albeit at the expense of banning all other forms of online gaming (casinos, lotteries, etc.). In 2010 as a part of his reelection campaign, Reid pushed for online gaming regulation at the behest of many Nevada casino interests and, in 2008, Reid was also at the helm of pro-online gaming regulations on the federal front.
The comments from Reid drew immediate interest from both sides of the debate on the issue. Adelson spokesman Andy Abboud stated to VegasInc.com’s J. D. Morris, “I think (Reid) hears Mr. Adelson’s position, and I think the fact that they share that position speaks volumes about where he is on the issue.” On the other side, the Executive Director of the Poker Players’ Alliance, John Pappas, responded, “Senator Reid has been a vocal supporter of Internet poker and the regulation of Internet poker and I certainly hope that position has not changed. I think there’s clearly one casino interest in the state that opposes (the proposed federal bill banning online gaming and poker), but Mr. Reid does have a lot of other casino interests and home-state employers that are very interested in seeing internet poker be prosperous.”
With the addition of Reid, the Senate Minority Leader, proposed legislation to federally ban internet gaming and poker could be facing a seismic shift toward passage. With that said, the drive by the Adelson-funded forces (of which Reid now seems to be a member of) to push that ban through is expected to come up short. The legislation in front of the House of Representatives called “The Restoration of America’s Wire Act” that is sponsored by Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz is still in committee at this time. In the Senate, the backer of what would be a companion bill, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, has yet to introduce such legislation for this Congressional session. Even if the House bill were to earn passage, it is thought that the Senate anti-online gaming voices – with its 60 vote minimum for passage of legislation – would not be able to pull together enough votes, even with Reid on their side.
Perhaps the biggest question is just where Senator Harry Reid now sits. He does have a long history of supporting online poker regulation but, as he prepares to retire, a change in his position for questionable reasons (we’ll let you fill in the blank there) wouldn’t be out of the question. While he is drawing the ire from both pro-online gaming and poker parties and some constituents in his state overall, Reid is continuing to show he might still be a major player in this discussion.