U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had long been on the fence regarding the legalization of online poker in the States. But when Reid sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke asking for a delay for the enforcement of Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) regulations in November of last year, it became clear that the influential politician was becoming more favorable toward poker on the internet.
This week, Reid showed even more support of online poker in the state of Nevada. According to the Reno Gazette-Journal newspaper, Reid claimed he would support the legalization of online poker in the United States during an August 16 meeting at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa. Reid also stated he would not support any other form of online gaming, including sports betting.
The news was disconcerting to Nevada gaming executives, who fear that the legalization of online poker will result in a major loss of customers in brick-and-mortar casinos.
“It (online poker) is just the tip of the iceberg and could open up this state to more online gaming,” said Bill Hughes, the Marketing Director of Peppermill, to the Reno Gazette-Journal. “It will only draw more money out of this state, from our poker rooms and eventually other facilities.”
Reid has stated that he would not support anything that hurts Nevada jobs, but the Senate Majority Leader will play a huge role in whether online poker is legalized. The House Financial Services Committee passed HR 2267, the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act, in July and the bill is currently waiting on a vote by the full House. HR 2267 would effectively legalize online poker, overturning a 2006 law that bars offshore sites from accepting money from U.S. bettors.
Congress is on summer recess until September 8, at which point Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) hopes the House Ways and Means Committee will mark up their tax companion bill, HR 4976, and bring both measures to the floor.
Meanwhile, gaming properties in Nevada, such as Harrah’s Entertainment and MGM Resorts International, are in the process of developing strategies to monetize the legalization of internet gaming. With the future of sites like PokerStars, UB.com, and Full Tilt Poker up in the air following the markup amendments of HR 2267, people like Jan Jones, Harrah’s Senior Vice President for Communications and Government Relations, seem to think online poker would improve Nevada’s gaming market.
“If you look at the businesses that are surviving today, they approach their customers in three ways,” Jones told the Gazette-Journal. “One is brick and mortar. One is direct marketing sales, and the other is the internet.
“The businesses that have not done that have gone out of business. Look at record stores. Look at newspapers. In the gaming industry, we need to realize, where are the X-Y generation customers? They are all on the internet. That is where they play. That is where they congregate, and if we don’t leverage the internet, then we run the risk of becoming an old person’s entertainment.”
Stay tuned to Poker News Daily for the latest news on Capitol Hill.