According to an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) may soon be bringing online poker legislation to life in the U.S. Senate. Whether the measure could pass into law before the current legislative session expires is anyone’s guess.
According to the Journal, “The Nevada casino companies pushing the measure were among [Reid’s] biggest donors during his fierce re-election fight. They argue the bill would provide consumer protection for poker players and would provide some tax revenue for federal and state governments.” Reid will return as the Senate Majority Leader in 2011 when the new Congress is seated. Then, the House of Representatives, currently controlled by Democrats, will see Republicans assume a leadership role.
In the House, Congressman Barney Frank’s (D-MA) HR 2267, the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act, sailed out of the Financial Services Committee in July. The bill establishes a licensing and regulatory framework for internet gambling sites to solicit real money action from the United States. Even though it passed by a 2:1 margin in Committee, it has yet to be approved, or even addressed, by the full House.
Speaking out against possible online poker legislation by Reid was House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Spencer Bachus (R-AL), who may assume the Committee’s Chair in the new year. Bachus told the Wall Street Journal, “Congress should not take advantage of the young, the weak, and the vulnerable in the name of new revenues to cover more government spending.” Curiously, Reed’s camp declined to comment to the New York news outlet.
The bill would allegedly allow “only existing casinos, horse tracks, and slot-machine makers to operate online poker websites for the first two years after the bill passes, which could limit the ability of other companies to enter the market.” If the Journal’s assessment were true, then the bill would be similar to the marked up version of HR 2267, which prohibits companies that have circumvented the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) from obtaining a license.
The UIGEA was passed in 2006 after being attached to the SAFE Port Act, an unrelated port security measure, in the waning moments of the Congressional session. Then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) pushed the UIGEA through Congress four years ago; now, the current Senate Majority Leader may undo the legislation before year’s end.
On December 1st, three Republicans – Bachus, Dave Camp (R-MI), and Lamar Smith (R-TX) – authored a letter to Reid and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urging that any attempts to legalize internet gambling be squashed. The letter claims that approving web gaming would result in an “unprecedented new tax regime” and adds that the rumored bill represents “desperation for more tax dollars to pay for ever-increasing Federal spending.”
The Republican-backed letter also reminds readers that, four years ago, the UIGEA coasted through the House before being tacked onto the SAFE Port Act in the Senate: “It should also be noted that in 2006, the last time the whole House considered an internet gambling bill, it voted 317 to 93 to prohibit gambling online.”
The Journal notes that Caesars Entertainment, which owns the rights to the annual World Series of Poker and recently changed its name from Harrah’s Entertainment, supports the movement to legalize internet gaming. Stay tuned to Poker News Daily for the latest headlines from Capitol Hill and beyond.