Harry Reid, Jon Kyl express pessimism on federal online poker bill’s chances


reid-kyl-online-poker-billThe co-authors of the US online poker bill waiting to be introduced at some point during the present lame duck session of Congress are – publicly, at least – attempting to downplay expectations that bipartisan consensus can be reached before time runs out next month. The National Journal quoted both Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) as saying the packed legislative agenda and ongoing partisan squabbling don’t bode well for passage of the online poker bill.

On Wednesday, Reid said the bipartisan pair “don’t have a path forward right now, but we’re working” on finding one. While Kyl is desperate to see the UIGEA-strengthening aspects of the poker bill enacted before he leaves office at the close of the 112th Congress, he’s aware there are far more pressing matters facing the nation. The poker bill is “not sequestration and the fiscal cliff and defense bill and all that, so it would be hard.” One potential vehicle to which the Reid/Kyl bill might have been attached – the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 – was voted down earlier this week.

Kyl also suggested that even if the Senate were to approve the bill, it would face a harsher reception in the House of Representatives (an opinion shared by Wynn Resorts’ boss Steve Wynn). House majority leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is not only agin’ any expansion of gambling, he’s also best buds with Las Vegas Sands’ boss Sheldon Adelson, who has not been shy about expressing his ‘moral opposition’ to online gambling. A report earlier this week on Roll Call suggested House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) “could be amenable to a deal” on online poker, provided Reid is willing to give ground on other issues closer to GOP hearts, but the ‘insiders’ who made this claim re Boehner’s alleged sympathies were not identified.

The Reid/Kyl bill got a measure of support earlier this week from the National Association of Convenience Stores, which asked its members to contact their congressional reps to express their approval of the bill’s prohibition of ‘instant win’ lottery ticket online sales. Nevada’s governor is also strongly behind Reid/Kyl, but the rest of the nation’s governors have collectively referred to the legislation as “an unnecessary preemption of state authority.” US Indian tribes also remain highly suspicious of any federal attempt to usurp their online gaming opportunities.

The uphill climb facing the Reid/Kyl bill was a point of discussion at Thursday’s Nevada Gaming Commission hearing on MGM Resorts’ online poker license application. Commissioner Tony Alamo noted that there wouldn’t be much point in MGM launching an online poker operation if only Nevada’s 3.5m residents were eligible to play. Alamo was likely only telling the MGM reps something they are all too aware of when he said intrastate online poker couldn’t hope to provide the casino giant with anything more than “an incremental revenue stream.”