The Reno Gazette created a ripple of headlines across the media this week with an article on the internet gambling position of influential Nevada politician and US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The article quoted a number of land gambling executives perturbed at what they see as a move toward legalised internet poker by the veteran Senator, something which most of them appeared to fear as an unwelcome competitive element.
Unnamed executives in northern Nevada told the Gazette that at a meeting at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa on August 16 this year Reid told them he would support the legalisation of online poker in the United States but drew the line there - he would not support any other form of online gaming.
However, even such a restricted legalisation worries land operators from the competitive aspect, and because they believe that such a move would be the thin end of the wedge. The successful passage of Barney Frank’s HR2267 through committee this year, with its amendments de-fanging much of the opposition, has been noted.
The Gazette observes that as Senate majority leader, Reid holds the key to passage of any Internet gaming bill, an opinion shared by Frank Fahrenkopf, the president and CEO of the American Gaming Association.
However, Reid would not support anything that hurt Nevada jobs, his Nevada press secretary told the Gazette this week.
Speculation on where Reid stands has been ongoing for much of this year. In February the news that he had supported a delay in the implementation of the UIGEA appeared to be a positive sign of his growing support for legalised and taxed online gambling in the USA.
In May the rumours of Reid support surfaced again, with a UK business analyst suggesting that Reid would introduce an online poker bill of his own within the next three months. At the time a spokesman for the Senator downplayed the rumour as “greatly exaggerated”, although he did acknowledge that Reid’s staff was looking into the issue in detail.
Later, another Reid spokesman issued a statement to CardPlayer magazine in which he reprised the “greatly exaggerated” line and attributed the speculation to the fact that the Senator’s staff were “trying to get a thorough understanding of every facet of the issue, including the potential effect on Nevada.”
Later still, Chris Moyer, the deputy Nevada press secretary for Sen. Reid, said that online poker regulation was “not high on the priority list.”
Many of the land operators to whom the Reno Gazette spoke are clearly afraid and opposed to the advent of online poker or, worst still, online casino activity in the United States, but where is the Frank legislative initiative realistically headed?
Congress is winding down and the mid term elections have had a distracting effect. Republican Representative for Carson City, Dean Heller, told the Gazette: “We only have two or three weeks and if I were a betting man today, I don’t think that this thing will get a House vote (this session),”
“I could be wrong. But I don’t know if there is enough appetite right now to get that down to the House floor.”
Not all Nevada land operators are against online gambling legalisation. Jan Jones, a senior vice president at Harrah’s Entertainment said that the company is developing strategies to monetise the legalisation of Internet gaming.
Jones told the Gazette that online poker would grow, not shrink, the market for Nevada gaming.
"If you look at the businesses that are surviving today, they approach their customers in three ways,” said Jones, the former mayor of Las Vegas. “One is brick and mortar. One is direct marketing sales, and the other is the Internet.
“The businesses that have not done that have gone out of business. Look at record stores. Look at newspapers.
“In the gaming industry, we need to realise, where are the X-Y generation customers? They are all on the Internet. That is where they play. That is where they congregate, and if we don’t leverage the Internet, then we run the risk of becoming an old person’s entertainment.”
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