In an exclusive interview with Gambling Compliance, outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said he has no plans to push a federal online gambling ban during the upcoming lame-duck session.
In true Reid fashion, he managed to choose his words very carefully, leaving the door open for a change of mind. Reid also managed to fire off a couple salvos at some of his Republican colleagues.
Just say no to Sheldon Adelson
When asked by Gambling Compliance’s Tony Batt if he intended to pursue any gambling-related legislation during his final few months in Congress, Reid said, “I, personally, don’t plan on doing anything.”
Reid went on to link the bill to Sheldon Adelson, and speculated that its congressional support is built on campaign donations.
“It’s interesting to me it came about when Adelson gave $20m to the Republican Senate,” Reid said of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) bill introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and the recent donation by Adelson to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) PAC.
“So I think it’s possible that [Adelson’s contribution] could have had something to do with [RAWA],” Reid told GC.
Reid has an on-again-off-again relationship with Adelson, who is diametrically opposed to Reid on the political spectrum but looms large in Reid’s home state of Nevada. This has created a strange dynamic between the two, with Reid alternately criticizing and defending Adelson.
It’s widely believed that Reid was privately backing a federal online gambling ban during the 2014 lame duck session, but that’s a rumor Reid flatly denied, according to Batt’s writing. The bill failed to work its way into the CRomnibus spending bill that was passed.
Reid’s support for online poker
In 2010 and 2012, Reid considered pushing an online poker legalization bill, but neither effort went very far. The senator has long said that the bills failed because he didn’t have the support of his colleagues.
“Everyone saw the bill; they reviewed the bill. I just couldn’t get any Republican support for it,” Reid told GC. “I could have introduced it anytime I wanted, but I wasn’t going to introduce something that [didn’t] have some Republican support.”
Reid’s online poker bills never got past the draft stage, and with online gambling legalization occurring at the state level thanks to a 2011 Department of Justice opinion, a federal bill seems unlikely.
Not surprisingly, Reid told Batt he will not be making a third attempt.[i15-table tableid=20717][i15-table tableid=20704]
Reid’s recent history
But it’s not Reid’s support for online poker that people are currently curious about; it’s his opposition to online gambling.
In a December 2014 interview, Reid detailed his concerns with online gambling to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, saying:
“I think the proliferation of gambling on the Internet is not good for our country. I think it is an invitation to crime. I think it is hard to control for crime when you’ve got brick-and-mortar places, let alone something up in the sky someplace, and it is very bad for children.”
In recent years his position seems to have changed from “yes” to online poker and “no” to online casinos to, effectively, “let’s throw the baby out with the bath water.” Reid has publicly said he is considering a blanket ban on all online gambling, since (in his words) he tried legalizing online poker and it didn’t work.
In May 2015, Reid went a step further, telling the Las Vegas Sun he would strongly consider supporting Adelson’s calls for a federal online gambling ban.
“Unless we can get something done with poker, I’m going to look closely — I haven’t made up my mind — but I’m going to look closely into banning it totally,” Reid said. “I’m going to take a hard look at it. It would be something I would certainly consider strongly.”
It’s these remarks, in addition to his odd couple-esque relationship with Adelson, that have some anxious he might make one last attempt at passing a federal online gambling ban. Despite his comments to Gambling Compliance, Reid did leave that door slightly ajar.
Reid is a crafty and experienced politician, which means every word was likely chosen very carefully. So, when Reid says he doesn’t plan on doing anything, remember this: Plans can change.