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Harry Reid's True Colors Emerge in Online Gambling Fight

Here we are again.

We have yet another aging legislator calling for prohibitions on an industry he simply doesn’t understand.

In 2006, Alaska Senator Ted Stevens called the Internet a series of tubes and now, in 2014, we have Harry Reid (the current Senate Majority Leader and soon to be Senate Minority Leader) lamenting how difficult the Internet (speaking specifically about gambling) is to regulate because it’s “up in the sky.”

Reid angling for CSIG chairmanship?

According to Steve Tetreault of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Reid said he is in agreement with Sheldon Adelson. Online gambling should be prohibited. These comments came after the failure to have RAWA added to the Cromnibus pending bill.

I think the proliferation of gambling on the Internet is not good for our country,” Reid stated. “I think it is an invitation to crime. I think it is hard to control for crime when you’ve got brick-and-mortar places, let alone something up in the sky someplace, and it is very bad for children.”

Reid has long sought to ban online gambling, but with the important stipulation that online poker would be legalized. Unfortunately, Reid’s political speak over the years has made it difficult to figure which issue is more important to him.

His comments this week seem to put this debate to bed.

After several years of guessing whether Harry Reid’s opposition to online gambling trumped his desire to legalize online poker, we finally have our answer: Harry Reid would throw the baby out with the bathwater if he had the opportunity.

Harry Reid’s wishy-washy approach, and noncommittal comments on the topic have long frustrated iGaming advocates, but there can be little doubt where his allegiances lie following comments like this: “If there is a chance to (legalize) poker, I will do that, but I am not for the Wire Act.”

Reid was also quoted as saying: If RAWA was attached to the Cromnibus in the House of Representatives, “then maybe there would have been an opening somehow for poker.”

These statements should be quite concerning, and not just to online gaming advocates, but also to poker-only advocates. “If there is a chance,” and “maybe there would be a chance,” Reid said of an online poker carveout, which can be extrapolated to mean “I’ll take it if I can get, but if not, tough cookies, it all gets banned.”

This seems to clearly indicate Harry Reid would push for RAWA whether it had an online poker carveout or not.

If you don’t understand how something works, don’t try to fix it

I’m actually ok with Harry Reid metaphorically referencing the sky when talking about the Internet, but his other comments that followed demonstrate an incredible misunderstanding of how the Internet works; perhaps from spending too much time in conversation with Sheldon Adelson.

What nobody seems to want to answer is:

How do banks protect against online crime such as money laundering?

How does eBay or Amazon protect against fraudulent charges?

How does American Express verify someone is of age to apply for a credit card online?

So, why is it these companies and industries that do business online are seen as safe and secure, but an online gambling site is somehow uncontrollable – the Wild Wild West as some like to call it?

If you feel an online gambling site cannot verify someone’s identity, than you should also have these same concerns about online credit card applications that require background checks that are every bit as in-depth and intrusive as a regulated online gambling site.

Want even more hypocrisy? Sure!

The real questions I would like ask Senator Reid to answer are:

What makes online poker sites safer than online casinos?

And why are online horse racing and fantasy sports considered safe enough to receive an exemption in RAWA?

Senator Reid stated that online gambling sites are hard to “control for crime” and they are “bad for children.” Yet he is in favor of legalizing online poker.

The fallacy here is that somehow online poker sites (or horse racing, lotteries, and fantasy sports) can be regulated and controlled, but online gambling/casino sites cannot – even though the same companies would be running them and the same regulators would be overseeing them.

Here is the thing, you can be for online poker legalization because poker, as a game of skill, is inherently different than games of chance played against the house, but you can’t take this stance because you feel one is able to be regulated and the other is not.

Anyone who is for online poker but against online casinos based on security and regulatory concerns either doesn’t understand how the Internet works or they are trying to sell you some snake oil.


The strongest opponent of online gambling, Sheldon Adelson, is a self-admitted technophobe who does not understand how any of this technology works. Furthermore, as a billionaire casino mogul, he also has an alarming conflict of interest when it comes to online gambling.

He has recruited people who simply do not understand the subject they are speaking on, yet bill themselves as experts by appearing on shows with faulty data and/or going before legislative bodies. Or most worrisome, introducing legislation. Evidence here, here, here, and here.

And now we have the Senate Majority Leader, who also clearly has an education gap when it comes to the Internet, falling in line with Adelson’s crusade.

As the saying goes, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”

On this issue we seem to have a lot of people speaking up in favor of Sheldon Adelson’s designs who would have been better served holding their tongue, Senator Reid among them.



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Steve Ruddock

Steve is veteran of the the poker industry, first as a player and now as a writer focusing mainly on the regulated U.S. markets and the politics of poker. Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveRuddock and at Google+.