Harry Reid Says Online Gambling Ban Will Come Up Again in 2015

on December 16, 2014
Harry Reid online poker ban

Harry Reid says he would support an online gambling ban, but would look for a carve out for online poker. (Image: PatDollard.com)

An online gambling ban didn’t make it through Congress in 2014, either as its own standalone bill or as part of the year-end omnibus spending legislation.

But with Republicans set to take over the Senate to go along with their existing control of the House of Representatives, it’s likely that efforts to ban Internet gaming at the federal level will be introduced again next year.

That likelihood was confirmed by Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada), the outgoing Senate Majority Leader who will return as Minority Leader next year.

He says that efforts by Las Vegas Sands CEO and chairman Sheldon Adelson to ban online gambling are likely to be heard again, especially with more of Adelson’s allies in positions of power in the next legislative session.

“I think there will be efforts made to look at the Wire Act in a Republican-initiated Congress, yes I do,” Reid told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I think there will be efforts made to get rid of the Wire Act.”

Ban Would Overturn Justice Department Opinion

While Reid’s phrasing may have been confusing, the underlying meaning is clear: a GOP-lead Congress is likely to at least take a look at the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), a bill pushed by Adelson that would ensure that the Wire Act unambiguously applied to almost all Internet gaming, including poker and casino games. That would nullify a 2011 Department of Justice opinion that said the current Wire Act only applies to sports betting.

Reid also made it clear that he is not a fan of online gambling, saying that the industry is too difficult to regulate.

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

Having a prominent Democratic Senator on board might increase the chances of RAWA getting a long look from Congress in 2015: while there are supporters and opponents of such a bill on both sides of the aisle, Adelson’s influence has meant that most of the momentum for the legislation has come from GOP legislators.

Reid Would Look to Regulate Poker While Banning Other Games

That may be scary for those who want to see online gambling succeed in the United States.

If there’s one bright spot, however, Reid did say he would be fine with online poker being legalized at the federal level.

That’s similar to past efforts he has made to carve out a space for Internet poker while otherwise banning online gambling, meaning the tone of his statements may have changed more than his actual stances.

“If there is a chance to [regulate] poker, I will do that,” Reid said. However, he also said that poker’s only chance would be as a carve out in a ban, as there was little interest in Congress in simply regulating online poker.

“Just to get poker alone is not going to work,” said Reid. “We tried that.”

Reid and Adelson have long been friends, leading to rumors in recent weeks that they might be working together on an Internet gambling ban in exchange for Adelson’s guarantee that he wouldn’t work against Reid in the 2016 elections.

However, Reid said that no such deal was in place: the two simply agree on this issue while disagreeing on most of their respective political ideologies.