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Harry Reid’s Office Says Online Poker Rumors ‘Greatly Exaggerated’

Nevada Senator’s Spokesperson Addresses Speculation


Senator Harry ReidA spokesperson for Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) has told Card Player that rumors of the Nevada senator pursuing online poker legislation are “greatly exaggerated,” but the senator’s office did acknowledge that its staff was looking into the issue in detail.

British stockbroker Daniel Stewart caused quite a stir in the poker community when he told a financial news organization two weeks ago that there was speculation that Sen. Reid would introduce an online poker bill into Congress within the next three months.

When asked for comment, Reid spokesperson Jon Summers issued the following statement to Card Player: “Senator Reid has long held concerns about whether online gaming could be regulated effectively. Rumors of a forthcoming bill, however, are greatly exaggerated and stem from staff trying to get a thorough understanding of every facet of the issue, including the potential effect on Nevada.”

Chris Moyer, the deputy Nevada press secretary for Sen. Reid, said over the phone that online poker regulation was “not high on the priority list” before deferring to Summers’ statement.

The statement may squash some of the optimistic anticipation online poker players may have been feeling since the rumors first surfaced two weeks ago, but poker advocates may take some solace in the fact that the statement did not deny the rumors, and it did, in fact, confirm that the senator’s office was researching the issue.

Washington, D.C. continues to weigh the pros and cons of online poker regulation.Despite being an elected official from the biggest gaming state in the U.S., Sen. Reid has stayed neutral on online poker regulation. Sen. Reid, the Majority Leader of the Senate and a former chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, has expressed concern in the past that the current technology was sufficient in preventing certain users from participating and ensuring that the games were legitimate and secure.

The American Gaming Association, which represents the commercial casino industry, also shared those concerns in the past and was hesitant to embrace online gaming in large part because of them. But after reevaluating the technology available, the AGA now believes the technology does exist to properly regulate the industry. In March, the AGA officially changed its position on online gaming from ‘neutral’ to ‘open to the concept.’

The AGA represents a number of major casino companies, including Harrah’s Entertainment, Las Vegas Sands, and MGM Mirage.

In the article in Proactiveinvestors, Stewart said he believed that Reid’s speculated legislation would explicitly legalize and regulate only online poker, while leaving casino games and sports betting out of the equation.

AGA President Frank Fahrenkopf also theorized in an interview with Card Player that starting exclusively with online poker might not be such a bad idea, saying, “If there are people in Congress who are concerned whether or not Internet gaming can be properly regulated to that standards that we do in Nevada and New Jersey and some of the other states, why not start with poker? Give it a shot, and that will be the proof in the pudding, whether or not it can be properly regulated.”

Rep. Barney FrankRep. Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced The Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act (H.R. 2267) in the House of Representatives a year ago this week. That legislation would explicitly legalize and regulate online gaming, with the exception of online sports gambling.

That bill has had one hearing, but it still has not had a mark-up. Poker Players Alliance executive director John Pappas said in March that he was optimistic that the mark-up would take place “by the spring.” He even said it was possible that it could happen within the next few weeks, but nearly two months later, no significant progress on the bill has been reported.

Rep. Frank’s bill has 68 co-sponsors, according to

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced narrower legislation in the Senate in August, which only sought to explicitly legalize online poker and other games of skill. The Internet Poker and Games of Skill Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act of 2009 still does not have any co-sponsors, and it has yet to have a relevant committee hearing.

Pappas has said in the past that the PPA is hesitant to actively seek co-sponsors in the Senate without first earning the support of Sen. Reid.