ESPN: Harry Reid’s Internet Poker Bill Dead In The Water

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Harry Reid's Internet Poker Bill

ESPN was reporting late Wednesday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s attempts to legalize Internet poker in the US have failed.  Reid had hoped to attach his draft bill to proposed spending legislation during this lame duck session.  That won’t happen apparently.

Numerous sources advised ESPN of the news.

"We are disappointed that Congress failed to act and provide the necessary consumer protections and sensible oversight over this multi-billion dollar industry," John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, wrote in an e-mail to "Sadly, some politicians remain with their heads firmly in the sand. The leadership of the Poker Players Alliance got the debate this far and we are determined to see this through."

The PPA has come under fire for supporting language in the bill that would have prevented existing online poker operators from entering the US market for up to two years. 

The fact that ESPN is breaking the story further illustrates the bizarre nature of current laws that prohibit online gambling.  ESPN broadcasts several hours of poker tournaments weekly and lists the game under “Sports” on its website.  Most of the tournaments include sponsorships from the top Internet sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. 

Reid has reportedly vowed to get online poker legislation passed even if it means waiting until the new year.  But by then there will be a Republican-run House, led by strong opponents of legalizing Web card rooms, including the likes of Spencer Bachus (R-Alabama).  The Senate Majority Leader has been dubbed “Harrah Reid” over the past two weeks, a reference made to the fact that his biggest political contributors to date are the Las Vegas casinos most supportive of the Internet poker draft bill. 

Following mistaken reports last week that Reid had given up on getting the bill passed, there are bound to be some who believe the ESPN story is nothing more than a ruse.  Reid staffers and lobbyists said this week that they were concerned over press generated aroudn the bill. 

"It's not over til the fat lady sings," said Payton O'Brien, Senior Editor of the website.  "The bill is drafted and Reid could still slip it into the spending measure along with the rest of the pork we've already reported on.  What's 'dead' Wednesday night could still come back to life Thursday morning perhaps."

States such as New Jersey and California are currently looking to legalize the activity within their respective borders. 

- Christopher Costigan, Publisher