According to a Politico article released on Thursday, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) still plans to pursue legislation legalizing and regulating online poker, but likely won’t do so as part of the tax relief bill.
The Politico piece noted that language legalizing online poker was absent from a version of the tax bill released on Thursday. The news outlet explained, “Reid could still insert the poker legalization into the tax cut bill if additional modifications are made before a final vote is cast sometime next week. Or he could slip the plan into a mammoth $1 trillion omnibus spending bill that has yet to be unveiled, but is necessary to keep the government funded through September. Any option is certain to generate backlash from the GOP.”
The Las Vegas Sun reported earlier this week that Reid’s online poker bill was all but dead, but quickly retracted the story after the Senate Majority Leader’s comments were taken out of context. However, it appears that the legislation is still alive, at least until next week’s scheduled end to the lame duck session. Reid issued a press statement on Thursday that read in part, “The legislation I am working on would get our collective heads out of the sand and create a strict regulatory environment to protect U.S. consumers, prevent underage gambling, and respect the decisions of states that don’t allow gambling.”
Also commenting on the bill on Thursday was the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), which addressed the 15-month blackout period in an e-mail sent to members: “Frankly, the proposed blackout period is absurd and the PPA opposes it. And we have fought – and continue to fight – tooth and nail against it. But it is a reality. There will likely be a blackout period of some length included in any legislation that is passed.” During the period, no online poker sites would be able to service the U.S. market legally.
The PPA reminded readers that a period of 15 months without legalized online poker may be more beneficial than continued industry decline: “We believe that the trade off for getting regulated, permanent U.S. online poker market is worth a temporary blackout of some sort. It’s not what we want, either, and it’s not what we pushed for in Congress, and we don’t even like it. But when viewing this from the perspective of maintaining a sustainable internet poker market, the 15-month period is short-term pain for a long-term gain.”
After the 15-month blackout period, existing casino companies in the United States would be able to procure licenses. Then, after two more years, other companies would be able to service the market.
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