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Will Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Push Federal Online Poker Legislation in 2012?

Online Poker Legislation

For a guy expected to be the key politician involved in eventually getting Internet poker legislation passed in the United States, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has never said much on the topic.

Congressmen Joe Barton and Barney Frank are ambassadors for the cause, having given countless interviews on poker, including with PokerNews.com. They openly campaign for support.

Reid apparently does his campaigning in private. Earlier this week, he gave a rare public comment to GamblingCompliance.com when asked about the DOJ's recent opinion on the Wire Act.

"It'll give us an incentive to get something done," Reid told GamblingCompliance. "We cannot have a series of laws around the country related to [Internet] gaming. I know a lot about gaming. I'm a former chairman of the Nevada [Gaming] Commission, and I think it's very important that we have a national law."

Reid's comments indicate that lawmakers realize 2012 is the time to either move on a federal poker bill or watch some states go on without a federal framework.

"It's very positive that someone like Reid is openly talking about the need to get this done this year," John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, told PokerNews. "We're hoping we can transfer words into law. It's preferable for the players, for the business side of things, to have some clear and consistent standards across 50 states instead of a patchwork of state laws and activities that would be legal in one place but illegal somewhere else."

GamblingCompliance also indicated that Reid confirmed publicly for the first time that he is negotiating with Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) on a federal bill, though he wouldn't get into any of the details.

There's hope in the poker community that Reid will attempt to attach poker legislation to the payroll tax bill next month, though that is probably optimistic. Reid and Kyl, the top Democrat and No. 2 Republican in the Senate, are still negotiating. And Reid hasn't even introduced a bill. Pappas said he didn't think Reid had a final bill yet and offered assurance that the PPA is making certain the player voice is being heard in the formulation of the legislation.

"We're at the table already," Pappas said. "We've met with their staff. We've provided input throughout the process."

With all of Reid's work behind the scenes, he could move quickly on a bill at any time. It wouldn't be shocking to see a bill go from nonexistent to attached to larger legislation without any other progress seen in public. Pappas said the PPA is hoping to see some movement in the next few months or else preparation for the election will make things difficult until the end of the year.

"I think Congress will be paralyzed coming into the summer months," Pappas said. "If something isn't done before that, the lame-duck session will be the next opportunity."

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