The Reno Gazette-Journal commented over the weekend on federal attempts to legalise online gambling in the United States, noting that three Nevada representatives in the House of Assembly support Congressman Barney Frank's HR2267...but that the support of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will be critical.
That support may not be immediately forthcoming; the crafty leader of the Democrat majority has thus far not committed himself either for or against the proposal.
Describing his involvement as pivotal, Democrat and Nevada Representative Shelley Berkley told the newspaper: "He will be the decider when it comes to Internet gaming."
Frank's HR2267 passed out of the House Financial Services Committee last week on a 41 - 22 vote of approval and has 70 co-sponsors in the House - the strongest showing yet in attempts to legalise the pastime in America.
Independent assessments have shown that a legalised online industry could be safer for American players, create employment opportunities and generate $42 billion in tax revenues over the next decade.
The Reno Gazette-Journal notes that most Nevada land casino operators have historically opposed online gambling as a possible competitive threat to their businesses, although in recent years the American Gaming Association has adopted a neutral position. However, the newspaper points out, HR2267 may clear a path for Nevada gambling companies to profit from digital gaming because they did not violate attempts to kill off internet gambling through the 2006 UIGEA, which bans financial transactions with online gambling companies.
Major potential competitors already occupying the online space that have persisted in offering internet gambling to Americans since 2006 may be precluded from obtaining US licenses if HR2267 is successful, the publication notes.
One example of a US company that could benefit is Harrah's Entertainment, whose interactive division owns the World Series of Poker, already has online ventures operating elsewhere, and backs the bill.
Congressman Reid voted for the UIGEA in 2006, but Berkley opined he may vote for legalisation.
"I think his position has softened dramatically, but he's going to need to be convinced," she said. "I don't want to put words in his mouth, but I know he's been moving to a positive position."
Berkley and fellow Democrat Representative Dina Titus are both among the co-sponsors of the Frank bill.
Republican Nevada Representative Dean Heller appears in favour of a legalised industry, writing in a statement last week: "Current law banning Internet gaming is unworkable and needs to be addressed. However, a lot of questions remain on how to appropriately legalise Internet gaming. The passage of this bill is a positive first step in moving the debate forward, but more work needs to be done to fully resolve this issue."
Dennis Neilander, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board said that Nevada laws are already in place to regulate online gaming, and noted that if the federal government gives states the green light, the board will have to ensure online casinos can effectively exclude minors.
"We would have to see from a technology point of view that it could be done in such a way that would prevent minors from taking part and that you would have to be able to block people from wagering from jurisdictions that make it illegal," he said.
Another question is how to tax and regulate online gaming. Nevada lawmakers and gaming officials are adamant about keeping the oversight and taxation of gaming under the supervision of individual states.
"Gaming has always been something the states can decide if they want at all, and if they want it, how much they will tax it," Neilander said. He added that the nature of the Internet means Congress will need to be involved in some limited way.
"This is sort of a unique animal," Neilander said. "The Internet is such a mechanism for interstate commerce that I'm sure there will have to be some federal regulation."
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