Could online poker become legal?

One powerful senator is reportedly trying to legalize online poker as part of the tax-cut deal.

By Kim Peterson Dec 8, 2010 1:49PM

Gambling © Jamie Grill/PhotolibraryWe've heard plenty about this messy tax-cut compromise that President Barack Obama and Republicans have been negotiating. But in the middle of this is an effort by Sen. Harry Reid to legalize online poker, Politico reports.

The Nevada Democrat is trying to get support for tucking the online poker legislation into the deal to extend Bush-era tax cuts. Politico even obtained a draft of the online poker bill.

Reid's bill says Internet gambling sites must be licensed in order to operate. The bill has big implications for companies like MGM Resorts International (MGM), which -- ahem -- contributed $192,000 to Reid's re-election campaign, and Wynn Resorts (WYNN).

One senior aide told Politico the bill is "a total, 100% payback" for the political contributions Reid received from gaming companies. The same aide said lobbyists from Harrah's even helped write the bill.

"You could call him 'Harrah Reid' at this point," the aide said.


 Post continues after video:

What does online poker have to do with tax cuts and the deficit? Absolutely nothing. If Politico's report is true (and Reid's office isn't commenting), then we know the following:

Reid is completely audacious. To even think of doing this is stunningly brash -- and just plain dumb.

The tax-cut deal is a mess. Jim Cramer bemoaned the horse-trading and delays on this blog. If Reid is trying to get online poker into the deal, what are other lawmakers -- Democrat and Republican -- trying to sneak in as well?

Online poker may become legal soon. Reid is clearly trying to reward his supporters, and if he doesn't win this one, he'll likely find another way to do it. He's the Senate majority leader and knows how to work the system as well as anyone.

Reid's effort will be torpedoed. Lawmakers from both parties are increasingly skittish about this tax-cut deal. Politico's story will only make them more so. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., told the site there is "zero chance -- no chance whatsoever -- that would be part of the tax deal."

Dec 8, 2010 5:10PM

Wow! Was this article biased or what? Those of us that choose to play on-line poker are doing it anyway, so why not tax and regulate it? This isn't "dumb" or "audacious" as the editorialist that wrote this dribble would like to frame it. This would generate revenue allowing those that don't play to pay less in taxes, and will provide more protections to the american consumers of poker sites against cheating etc. Although the later is not as prevalent as the uneducated might believe, because the sites know it is in their best interests to keep the games clean, and actively police for collusion etc. Regulation and following "best practices" could protect the customers of regulated sites. The author/editorialist that wrote this tries to make this sound like this bill is being snuck in, when this actually kind of makes sense as it would increase badly needed revenue, while Kim makes no mention of how the UIGEA that was intended to stop unlawful internet gambling was underhandedly attached, at the last minute, to a "port security bill" that was a "must pass" bill to protect us from terrorists. WFT? Most lawmakers weren't even aware that that it was added in there to begin with, and the UIGEA still can't prevent the gambling from being done by americans. It only restricts the ability for american companies and our government to benefit from it. If you have a brain, you can see why Mr. Reid's bill makes sense. Granted, it may benefit big casino companies that supported Mr. Reid, but then again, who else is best prepared to offer regulated poker? Reputable existing poker sites should be allowed to be licensed and regulated to compete fairly too, but I'm sure there is a little back scratching going on it that regard. It is politics after all. Still the premise of taxing and regulating on-line poker in this country is a very good idea.    

Dec 8, 2010 5:28PM
This guy has it completely backwards.  Casinos have been lobbying against legislation to legalize online gambling because it's in direct competition to their bottom line.  So Harry Reid is actually going against his constituents.
Dec 9, 2010 5:34AM
What does Online poker have to do with taxes?  Alot more than it has to do with port security, Kim.  At least there's a connection.  There is quite a bit of revenue generated from a $6B a year industry.
Dec 9, 2010 2:45PM
I have played for years and has been mentioned earlier the online gambling ban was snuck into the safe port act that was guaranteed to pass, most senators didnt even know it had been added. While i enjoy not paying taxes on my winnings, which is not alot lol, i would love to have the USA legalize it and tax it if it would mean that they would regulate and guarantee that no cheating, like the Absolute and Ultimate poker site scandals of a few years ago and may very well be occurring right now on other poker sites. I would much rather my government get the money than some offshore country that is basically left to monitor its own security which leaves the door open to cheating by many operators or their employees.
Dec 8, 2010 11:00PM
Most of online gaming isn't based in the U.S. Its based in tax havens.
Dec 8, 2010 9:43PM

Kim Peterson -


"ahem...." and how does this amount compare to the trillions of dollars spent by the wealthy 2% AND financial interests from other countries for the Repubs and Tea Party?!?


At least these casinos are companies HERE IN THE USA!!  The money they pay in taxed profits actually goes towards paying this countries bills and debts!

Dec 8, 2010 8:48PM
Why on Earth would MGM or Wynn want online gaming legalized? They don't control or profit from online poker. If anybody would want online gaming legalized its Party Gaming, Poker Stars and Full Tilt. MGM, Wynn and Harrahs have nothing to do with online poker. 

Internet poker would bring tax revenue to the U.S. that is currently going elsewhere because we made it illegal to operate here. Plus it would enable the U.S. to regulate it and protect players from online scams. 

Who ever wrote this article is a moron and needs to at least understand what he is complaining about rather than blindly accusing someone. 

Reid's constituents are the people of Nevada, who are pro-gaming people. Republican or Democrat, I'm sure most of his constituents would support this bill.
Dec 9, 2010 2:16AM

Kim,  as you can see many people believe your article is biased and wrong.  I agree with all of them as well.  I would imagine most any person who had a full understanding of this bill and had common sense would see the possible benefits and would fully support it.


Just because there is money to be made by the people who support this public servant does not invalidate the concept.  The law that forced the revenues outside the country to begin with is the problem and should NEVER have been passed.  This would just correct the prior error.


And in the future Kim if you want to write an article and be completely biased at least hide it a little bit better this was so obvious a monkey could see you were not stating facts but slandering a person and his motivations. 

Dec 9, 2010 1:37AM
Kim do you see all these comments? They are right you really don't have a clue. "What does online poker have to do with taxes?" Are you effing kidding me? Revenue has everything to do with taxes. I don't know if you got the memo, but the U.S. is in deep debt. With tax cuts not expiring we need to find ways to pay off said debt. And like others have pointed out it was made illegal at a last minute add on something that had nothing to do with online gaming. Reed is the representative to a gambiling oriented state right? Isn't that what his job is to fight for the people that got him elected? I hope you feel pretty dumb by now. But unforunatly your pride and delusion of morality will get in the way.
Dec 8, 2010 11:17PM

Government needs to get out of the morality business. COMPLETELY! I'm sick of the government telling me what I can and cant do in my own house. Here's a clue, I'm going to do it anyway, and you can kiss my **** if you think you can ever stop me.


The only thing I want from my government is protection from those who would harm us, or rip us off. And administrate government affairs. Beyond that GTFO of my life.

Dec 8, 2010 11:14PM
i have been playing poker online for over 5 years now.  yes, it is real money poker.  i dont see what the problem is...
Dec 8, 2010 9:36PM

Legalizing online gaming is a win-win proposition.  Most obvious is the huge amount of money for the US in Taxs of online gaming.  We have already missed out on billions - trillions of dollars while the established sites have been raking it in.


These casinos have developed their own sites to operate here in the US.......they have just been waiting for the OK and are all geared up with the sites they already have developed!  Online gaming does not take away from the casinos.  Contrary, they add an entirely new market of gamblers to their profit margins.......folks who do not frequent casinos.  Folks who sit in the comfort of their own homes, at any time - day or nite - seven days a week!  Folks who can't afford the expense to travel to casinos or any desire to spend money on lodging, meals, gift shops, tourist attractions and entertainment.  Folks who just want to enjoy a game of Poker with other like minded folks - without paying for all the extras.


There has been a HUGE, unique Lobby of US citizens who have been extremely well organized for years - such as the PPA - Poker Players Alliance.  Imagine a Lobby of citizens for benefit of citizens!


I can't see how any of our legislators can turn their backs on this vast amount of money coming INTO our country for a change.....instead of going out to other countries.

Dec 8, 2010 9:03PM

It is a great idea to legalize online gambling.  The legalize it and then they tax people's winnings.  Has anyone seen the number of people of people playing on Full Tilt, Poker Stars, Cake Poker, and some of the other sites that still allow Americans to play?  60 minutes did a piece on online gambling after it was made illegal and even Las Vegas thinks it should be made legal.  Harrahs and Binions could double, triple, quadruple their earnings by setting up internet sites.  When you "buy in" to a tournament, they keep a certain amount and the rest goes into the pool.  It's a no-brainer to legalize, regulate, and tax online gambling.  The US would make a mint.

Dec 8, 2010 9:01PM

I am of the camp that we should be allowed to do as we choose.  There are many people that are going to play anyway. 


Very few seem bothered by a pay to play scenario.  Heck we would then know the games are legit, the gov could raise some money and we could have some legal fun.

Dec 8, 2010 5:38PM
In 2006 UIGEA was slipped into a bill moments before it was approved. This is no different. I'm a republican so I'm not really sure why other republicans are against this. I don't believe government should tell us what we can and can not do. If someone wants to blow all of their money playing poker online so be it.
Dec 9, 2010 1:41PM
This isn't really news. Harry Reid is as dirty as they come and ALL politicians add their pet projects into bills. A bill covering only what the title suggest does not exist in the US. That said, I completely support online gambling. I'm a grown man. I can decide what I do with my time and money. The government is not supposed to control my every move with what they think is right unless my decisions negatively impact another person's rights. Me playing poker online doesn't hurt anyone... except my willing opponent. ;)
Dec 9, 2010 1:13PM
"trillions of dollars spent by the wealthy 2% AND financial interests from other countries for the Repubs and Tea Party?!?" Lol! Check the registered campaign contributions. You'll find more donations by the "rich" (indculding corporatyions like GE) to Democrat candidates than to GOP or Tea Party affiliates. Reid knows about revenue. I cannot stand the rat... but he knows about revenue. Sure, legalize it... and then tax the bugeezez out of it.
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