Monday, 10 January 2011

Reid pushes for e-gambling Act in ‘lame duck’ Congress

US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Democrat) confirmed on 7 December he is pushing for a last-minute Bill to legalise online poker in the US. “Senator Reid is working to find a way to get it done”, his Spokesman said. While the text of the Bill has not been made public, members of Reid’s team have been circulating a 57-page document since late November, proposing to amend the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act - which bans online gambling in the US. 

 To increase the chances of success, it is expected the Bill will be ‘linked’ to another piece of legislation and will be introduced before 5 January, the end of the ‘lame duck’  session - the period between the election and Congress’ new term. After that, chances of success will dwindle rapidly since a majority of newly elected Members - mostly Republicans - opposes online gambling. Under the proposals, internet poker games could only be offered by operators of existing bricks-and-mortar casinos. Most of these businesses are located in Las Vegas, Nevada, Reid’s home state. That explains why “Reid will do whatever it takes to protect and advance this proposal”, said Elizabeth Corey, Partner at Foley & Lardner LLP. “He will look for any vehicle to attach this gaming proposal to.”

The American Gaming Association (AGA) has welcomed Reid's proposals. “This is law-and-order legislation...a solid regulatory framework,” said Frank Fahrenkopf, the AGA’s Chief Executive. Supporters of Reid, mainly gambling businesses and Nevada politicans, have claimed the proposed legislation would bring in more than $3 billion in tax revenue and will create thousands of jobs.

While it is far from certain whether the new Bill will be passed before Republicans take control of Congress in January, “Reid does for online gamblers in one week what Frank could not do in four years”, wrote Larry Rutherford, Staff Editor at, on his popular blog.
A number of Republicans, however, wrote in a public letter  to Reid on 1 December that “creating a federal right to gamble requires careful deliberation, not back-room deals or earmarks for special interests”.

Corey believes that “Reid has lost the element of surprise and faces continuing opposition. But Reid is a fighter and he gives as good as he gets,” she said. “We all know stranger things have happened as Congress rushes to adjournment.”   

Published previously in World Online Gambling. London, 2010. UK Copyright laws apply.