In a recent interview with the Las Vegas Sun, Nevada Senator Harry Reid said he is considering supporting a full online gaming ban.
In the usual Reid manner he qualified his declarations with phrases like “I haven’t made up my mind” and “I’m going to look closely into banning it totally” and “it would be something I would certainly consider strongly.”
These remarks mirror the Senator’s comments from March, when he said he would consider pushing for an online gaming prohibition (Jason Chaffetz’s Restoration of America’s Wire Act) if it passed through the House of Representatives.
Reid was also rumored to be pushing for RAWA to be attached to the 2014 CRomnibus spending bill during the lame duck session in December – an effort that eventually failed.
At the time Reid told the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Steve Tetreault:
“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.”
While Reid’s statements over the past six months seem concrete, his carefully crafted political-speak is also noncommittal, allowing Reid to stay in the good graces of the Las Vegas casinos in favor of legalized online gaming or change his position later.
Reid’s history with online gambling
Reid has long held the position of favoring online poker legalization and regulation, and at the same time backing the prohibition of online casino games.
In 2012 Reid floated the idea of legalizing online poker and strengthening restrictions on online casino games, but was unable to muster enough support from the Republican side of the aisle to actually introduce the bill.
For online poker advocates, precisely which of these two disparate positions was at the top of Reid’s priority list has always been difficult to pin down. But his recent comments make it clear that banning online casino games trumps legalizing online poker.
The new question is would he go through with it? Would Harry Reid actually push for an online gaming ban that would roll back the regulated Nevada online poker industry?
This seems unlikely.
Why it might not matter
It’s unclear why Reid continues to pander to both sides of Las Vegas’ casino industry by not taking a firm position on RAWA.
If Reid really supported Adelson’s proposed ban, or if he is dead set on having an online poker carveout, there is no reason to include caveats and qualifiers in his statements.
Reid is retiring at the conclusion of his term in 2016, so he doesn’t have to run for reelection or worry about Adelson money going to a political opponent – one of the rumored reasons for his support of RAWA in 2014.
And at the end of his term he will be 77 years old so it’s unlikely he’s keeping the door open for a cushy job with Adelson or one of Adelson’s competitors.
Furthermore, Reid’s opinion on the matter is not as important as it was just a year ago.
Reid has been relegated to the role of Senate Minority Leader following the Republicans taking control of the upper chamber, losing the power to bring issues to the floor for a vote without invoking some nuanced Senate procedure.
Furthermore, Reid’s replacement as Majority Leader, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, would be trouncing several years of planning and investment by Churchill Downs should he support RAWA.
The powerful Kentucky-based racing and gaming company has been exploring and preparing to enter the online gaming space for several years.
State level expansion
One extremely odd quote from Reid’s LVS interview was his assertion that legalized online poker would have been great for the state of Nevada, but he was unable to get a bill passed, so “it didn’t work.”
“I worked very hard to get online poker. I thought (it) would be great for the state of Nevada, it’s something that is done recreationally around the world.
I thought it would be great for Nevada to get it controlled. That didn’t work, could not get it done.”
This statement is patently absurd.
Nevada passed an online poker legalization bill in 2011 and launched legal, regulated, online poker on April 30, 2013.
Nevada has legal, regulated, “controlled” online poker.
Harry Reid couldn’t get it done at the federal level, but the state of Nevada did – as did Delaware and New Jersey the following year, when the two states legalized online poker and online casino games.
This expansion happened without Harry Reid’s involvement, and the future of online gaming in the U.S. (whether it be legalization or prohibitions) will likely occur without Harry Reid’s influence as well.