Harry Reid’s Nuclear Option – for Online Gambling

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Talk in the media of Harry Reid’s “nuclear option” generally refers to a procedural change Reid could employ to end filibustering of Obama’s nominees.

But the Senate Majority Leader is reportedly arming another nuclear option, this one directed squarely at state-based online gambling expansion.

That’s per a report from Global Gaming Business publisher Roger Gros on Twitter:

Gross clarified that his source provided the info on “deep background,” so we have no sense of how close the source is to Reid or what agenda the source might have for providing this assessment.

I will say that GGB is a credible publication and Gros isn’t know for casually spreading thin information.

UPDATE: Rumors spreading of new Reid bill

PokerNews.com Managing Editor Brett Collson injected a new level of intrigue into the conversation with the following tweets:

LVA offered a bit more detail in their brief tease of the rumored Reid bill, suggesting “big moves” are in the works as “Reid is preparing to introduce a new poker-only bill that’s believed to have the support (and votes) necessary to pass before the end of this year. Integral to the plan is a compact between Nevada and New Jersey that would establish a joint online-governing body.”

Such a bill, if introduced, would add an interesting layer of context to recent comments by MGM CEO Jim Murren regarding the near-term likelihood of a compact between New Jersey and Nevada.

An empty threat by Reid?

As Brad Polizzano quickly pointed out, it’s a bit difficult to take Reid’s reported ultimatum seriously when there’s not a Senate bill addressing online gambling in play.

Reid has been critical of the active House efforts to regulate online gambling. Plus, Rep. Barton – who recently introduced a poker-only bill in the House – said only weeks ago that he hasn’t been in direct contact with Reid or Dean Heller on the issue in the current session.

In short: Reid appears a good distance from having a legitimate legislative push ready to go.

But even assuming he did (as rumors are now suggesting), something still doesn’t add up.

In exercising the nuclear option of the updating Wire Act to ban intrastate online gambling, Reid would also be acting against the interests – at least the short-term interests – of many (but not all) in the casino industry that were essential to Reid’s 2010 re-election.

Caesars, for one, has sunk considerable resources into developing the foundation for a regulated online gambling business, as has Station Casinos via their stake in Ultimate Gaming.

Also, in practical terms, there’s no way Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lets a blanket online gambling ban – which would negatively impacts his state’s horse racing industry – see the light of day.

Finally, there’s the open question of what power the federal government – which has historically left the issue of intrastate gambling to the states – would actually have to prevent states from offering online gambling to persons within the borders of that state.

Gros believes Reid could follow through

Despite the above, Gros suggested that Reid was more than motivated – and more than capable – of exercising an online gambling nuclear option:

- Chris is the publisher of OnlinePokerReport.com. Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.
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