Rumors Fly of New Federal Online Poker Push by Reid

While many thought the 2012 lame duck session of Congress represented Harry Reid’s best – and quite possibly last – chance at an online poker bill, one member of Congress apparently holds a conflicting opinion.

And, being that said member is in fact Harry Reid, his opinion ought to carry some weight.

While there’s been no official word from Reid’s office on this issue, a number of reputable industry sources have been publicly stating in recent days that the Senate Majority Leader is poised to relaunch his attempt to bring federally regulated online poker in law – and prepared to significantly block the expansion of other forms of online gambling in the process.

Nevada and New Jersey said to cooperate in new proposal

Details of Reid’s rumored proposal are all second hand and speculative.

With that caveat out of the way, what’s being reported looks something like this: Reid would amend the Wire Act to blanket-ban all forms of online gambling, while making a single exception for poker and grandfathering in existing online gambling regulated by the states.

New Jersey and Nevada would be tasked by the federal government with operating a dually-controlled regulatory body that would oversee the online poker industry, while states with gaming boards and tribal entities would also be able to issue licenses.

Adelson rumored to be a potential supporter

In one of the stranger twists to the story, a high-ranking editor at claims to have credible indications that Sheldon Adelson – he who so recently and vocally criticized online gambling – is planning on supporting Reid’s bill, giving the whole enterprise a bit more of a chance in the Republican-controlled House.

Again, we have no confirmation from any of the parties said to be directly involved in the matter. As with so many of the issues surrounding online poker in the U.S., this remains a situation where the unknowns definitely outweigh the knowns.

Bill possibly in response to California’s online gambling push

Those who follow the industry have been quick to suggest that only California could be a strong enough force to create sufficient motivation for what would otherwise be an incredible long shot.

California, the argument goes, strikes enough fear into the heart of Nevada casinos who imagine that regulated online casinos available to Californians will result in a traffic dip for their Vegas properties. That fear might be strong enough to get Adelson and Caesars on the same page.

And California – where gambling leaders have publicly denounced the idea of entering into compacts with other states – could post a threat to both Nevada and New Jersey’s aspirations to participate in the international online gambling industry.

Of course, should federal action lock down intrastate online gambling before California manages to pass a bill making it legal, California could find themselves in the situation of having lost out on what many believe will be one of the biggest opportunities for gambling expansion in the history of the industry. While the state will still be able to offer poker, other forms of gambling will be off the table.

Other potential losers in this scenario would be states like Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, who seem close to acting on the issue in the status quo, but could find themselves at least partially shut out of the online gambling industry if a federal bill materializes and passes more rapidly than the states could react.

Illinois – one of the states that originally requested clarification from the DoJ on the issue of the Wire Act and online gambling – would also stand to lose significantly from federal action that limited the state to offering a poker-only form of online gambling, as opposed to the full-casino lineup recent legislative proposals in Illinois have envisioned.

About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on,, and

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