Reid: Legalize Online Poker in Tax Deal

by Katrina Trinko

Sen. Harry Reid, who indicated earlier today that he was not sure if he had the votes in the Senate to pass the Obama-GOP tax compromise, has decided the bill is the perfect vehicle for a measure to legalize online poker, reports Politico.

Reid received about $700,000 in campaign funds this election cycle from casinos and other gambling companies according to the Center for Responsive Politics, including nearly $200,000 from MGM Resorts International (the top contributor to his campaign) and around $85,000 from Harrah’s Entertainment. Over his entire congressional career, Reid has received a whopping $1.7 million from casino and gambling interests.

Casinos also actively pressured their Nevada employees to vote for Reid, as a series of e-mails obtained by National Review’s Elizabeth Crum showed.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the legislation “would allow only existing casinos, horse tracks and slot-machine makers to operate online poker websites for the first two years after the bill passes.” The two-year moratorium on non-existing companies could give the current casinos a crucial edge in capturing the market.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) told Politico that there was “zero chance – no chance whatsoever that would be part of the tax deal. I don’t think it would be the right thing to do.”

Reps. Spencer Baucus (R., Ala.), Dave Camp (R., Mich.), and Lamar Smith (R., Tex.), the top Republicans in the Financial Services, Ways and Means, and Judiciary committees respectively, wrote a letter to Reid and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Kentucky) last week that detailed their opposition to any measure legalizing gambling online. “We have heard report that certain interests might be pushing the Senate to attach such a bill to a ‘must pass’ measure because they have calculated that a secretive, closed-door, undemocratic process represents their best opportunity to regain access to the U.S. market,” they wrote.

Adding that any online gambling legalization required “careful deliberation” and “expertise in the payment systems, experience in criminal justice and proficiency in tax policy,” the lawmakers warned against trying to pass the legislation quickly.

In 2006, a bill that included a ban on online gambling passed the House by a wide margin, 317 to 93.

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