Harry Reid Gives Up on Online Poker

3 min read

Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader.
Harry Reid, former online poker champion, washes his hands of the game. (Image: politistick.com)

Harry Reid may have finally abandoned his quest to legalize online poker, as he enters the final months of his career.

After three decades in politics, Reid recently announced his decision not to seek reelection in 2016.

Speaking, to the Las Vegas Sun this week, the Senate Minority leader, who supports a ban on online gambling but has spent five years on and off campaigning for a federal online poker carve-out, sounded like he was finally admitting defeat.

“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,” he said. “I’m going to take a hard look at it. It would be something I would certainly consider strongly.”

Sound and Fury

Many feel that the Senator’s efforts on behalf of online poker were half-hearted in the first place.

There were rumors in 2010 that Reid would try to push an online poker bill through the lame duck session that year, but it didn’t happen.

In 2012 he was promising Nevada’s gambling industry that a federal bill to legalize Internet poker would be passed by the end of 2012. It might be “the most important issue facing Nevada since [the nuclear waste dump] at Yucca Mountain,” he said. “This bill means jobs for Nevada.”

Reid teamed up with Senator Jon Kyl, a fierce opponent of online gaming, in order to prepare legislation that would legalize online poker and horserace betting while banning all other forms of online gambling at a federal level, but the bill was never formally introduced.

Reid blamed Nevada’s Republican Senator, Dean Heller, for failing to whip up enough GOP support for the bill, and vowed he would try again next year.

He didn’t.

At Odds With Casino Industry

He recently told KNPR: “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.”

Meanwhile, he remains steadfastly opposed to online gambling in general, he says, a position now at odds with the vast majority of the Nevada casino industry, whose interests he has represented for decades.

“I think the proliferation of gambling on the Internet is not good for our country,” he said. “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.”

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