In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on July 14th, senators Harry Reid and Jon Kyl urged the Department of Justice to continue aggressivley pursuing sites offering illegal Internet gambling in the United States. Furthermore, they ask Holder to reiterate the DOJ’s “longstanding position” that federal law should prohibit internet gambling, including instrastate gambling.
On the surface, this may seem as yet another negative development in the online poker saga. However, just the fact that these two powerful senators are working together across party lines to address the issue of internet gambling is promising.
Last year Reid, a Nevada senator, tried to add language that would have licensed and regulated online poker attached to a must-pass legislation during the lame duck session of Congress. Kyl, an Arizona senator, fought against the addition and won out. Kyl has fought internet gambling legislation for a dozen years. Earlier this year, Kyl wrote on his website that he would consider efforts to legalize online poker as long as broader proscriptions against online betting remain. He acknowledged that poker might be treated differently since many believe it is a game of skill. This, along with the recent letter, might suggest that Kyl and Reid can find common ground and start discussing possible solutions.
The letter’s wording is more in line with Kyl’s position however it would make sense that Reid would not want offshore poker sites allowed to operate in the States because he would prefer the industry belong to Nevada based casinos. At the same time, the letter could serve as a message to the District of Columbia and California that internet poker should be a federal issue and should not be handled at an intrastate level.
If these senators combine their influence to push legislation that would license and regulate online poker and at the same time strengthen the UIGEA against other forms of internet gambling, this can be the momentum needed to start making internet poker official in the U.S.