Saturday March 9,2013 : STATES' ONLINE GAMBLING INITIATIVES MAY HAVE FIRED UP CONGRESS (Update)
Harry Reid about to have another go at federal legalization?
Probably motivated by the speed at which individual US states are pushing ahead with online gambling legalization initiatives, Nevada Senator Harry Reid – who already has two failed attempts on his scorecard – could be about to launch another federal legalization (and exclusively online poker) initiative.
Reporting on the possibility, the Reuters news agency said Friday that a proposal appears to be coming together, with Sen. Reid working "behind the scenes" to form a bi-partisan coalition in support of a federal solution.
Last year Reid was similarly involved with Republican political veteran Jon Kyl in a failed bid to legalise online poker but specifically outlaw other forms of online gambling.
The Reid-Kyl bill was opposed by many Republicans and several states' governors, state lottery directors and others who felt it unfairly favoured Nevada by giving it too much regulatory clout and a cut of the fees.
Representative Joe Barton of Texas, who also dabbled in federal online poker legalization with a failed measure last year, told Reuters that the moves by the states had incentivised the federal government to act.
"Whether you're for or against Internet gambling," said Barton, "you don't want 50 sets of state laws. You want uniformity."
Supporters of a federal solution cite regulatory harmony as a major advantage, whilst proponents of a state-by-state approach claim that it is the right of states to decide on gambling law within their borders or by interstate compacts, and that federal intervention siphons off prospective revenues.
So far Nevada (online poker), New Jersey and Delaware have already passed online gambling legalization measures, with other developments likely in Illinois, California and Pennsylvania. Iowa and Hawaii have repeatedly, and to date unsuccessfully, flirted with attempts as well.
A spokesman for Nevada Senator Dean Heller, who was involved last year with the Reid-Kyl attempt, told Reuters: "Senator Heller believes federal legalization for online poker is crucial, and will continue to work with Senator Reid and like-minded colleagues to get a bill passed."
The news agency quotes American Gaming Association statistics in reporting that about 85 countries have legalised online gambling and an estimated $35 billion is being bet worldwide online each year, including by millions of people in the United States.
The Association predicts that the U.S. market will reach $10 billion a year by 2017 from about $4 billion in unauthorised gambling in 2011.
Approached for comment by Reuters, Caesars Entertainment spokesman, Seth Palansky, said:
"We will be prepared with our offerings for Nevada and hopefully New Jersey. But there is still time for Congress to step in and provide a federal solution."