U.S. Online Poker Bill Misdeal Between Reid and Heller

Posted on September 13th, 2012 by Todd Wilkins

U.S. Online Poker Bill Misdeal Between Reid and HellerA new U.S. online poker bill has run into a snafu as Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller seem to have a political misdeal on their hands. Reid, an advocate of U.S. online poker who recently fashioned a new Internet poker bill, is a Democrat and the Senate majority leader and Heller is a Republican. Both represent the state of Nevada.

In what may be a matter of a simple but important misunderstanding, Reid has asserted in a very strong letter that Heller has failed to garner support of the new bill from 15 fellow Republican senators. Heller had pledged to do so with the list of Republicans supporting the online poker legislation being delivered to Reid’s office on Monday. Reid’s bill was to be introduced to the Senate this fall with the idea that it would become federal law before the end of the year.

A spokesman for Heller claimed that the senator was enlisting support but that it was his understanding that the bill would first be acted upon by the House of Representatives. Republican Senator Jon Kyle (Republican, Arizona), who is an advocate of the bill, stated that he thought it would be best to first introduce the bill via the House.

Kyl said, I am afraid that if the Senate acts first, the House will feel itself jammed, and it wouldn’t go anywhere. The object here should be to pass a bill, not make Senator Heller look bad. He added, Now the thing has blown up. Again, I want to work with Harry Reid to get this done. I regret to say what he has done here is going to make it a lot harder now. Instead of an approach by which we might have been able to bring people along, I think it looks to be what it is, and that is very political.

Reid’s bill focuses on legalizing online poker in the U.S. and on banning other forms of gambling such as casino games and slots. This ban of other forma of gambling is being advocated despite the fact that this year the U.S. Justice Department ruled that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting and that all other forms of gambling were not restricted by the act. The Wire Act bans gambling across state lines by using electronic means of communication.

It’s reported that Heller’s plan has been to convince Representative Lamar Smith (Republican, Texas) to introduce a bill that would reverse the Justice Department’s ruling on the Wire Act. That legislation would make most types of online gambling illegal. Smith, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is against Internet gambling, as are most House conservatives.

When reached for comment an aid to Smith said that both Smith and incoming committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (Republican, Virginia) are on the same page and that both oppose gambling. The aide also noted that the motives of those attempting to influence the new legislation are well known.

We are not naive, the committee aide observed. They were going to try to get us to pass a bill, and then they would add the poker change to it and then send it back to us.

The fight to legalize online poker in the U.S. has been complicated as of late as the Republican Platform for the presidential election has come out against all forms of online gambling and the Democratic Platform did not mention it at all. Reid sees his attempt to finally allow Internet poker in the U.S. as being hugely important to his constituency in Nevada. Nevada has all legislation in place to facilitate online poker once a federal law is passed.

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