Harry Reid remains pointed toward an effort to attach his Internet poker bill to “some piece of must pass legislation” during the lame duck session of Congress when all the focus is on the looming fiscal cliff.
Will he be successful? The outcome may be as difficult to measure as the Florida vote count. There is a lot to be said for this thing called hope and it may not come down to a game of chicken atop the fiscal cliff.
“I want poker as much as anyone but Congress is facing problems that are a lot bigger than Internet poker,” a Washington-savvy friend confided.
The prospect of legislative success would have probably died quickly in the aftermath of a Romney win, what with forces such as Romney super-donor and casino owner Sheldon Adelson probably lobbying against congressional action to boost the spread of Internet wagering.
I put the question about Reid’s plans to one of the senior industry executives who has been following this issue. He did not want to be identified by name or affiliation. Most of the sources worth listening to on this subject say in so many words that the Internet poker issue is still very dependent on the chess-playing ability of those at the negotiation table.
And they are always afraid of opinions blowing up in their faces.
“Federal legislation makes sense just as it did before last week’s election. The difference,” he said, “is that we now have an administration for the next four years that’s reasonably friendly to the issue. The potential bad news floating amid this stew of possibilities is that some of those people (House Republicans who had expected to have their man in the White House by now) are really pissed off.”
His implication being that they are not interested in doing much of anything to put a smile on the Senate majority leader’s face.
But truth sometime stinks, my source noted, and the reality resting like a heavy weight on this Congress is the so-called fiscal cliff is not an issue that can be put off much longer.
Which is why Reid, the Nevada Democrat who once served as chairman of the Gaming Commission, intends to make the most of his last chance this year to get what his Nevada friends want: a chance to ride the Internet toward the big profits they imagine poker will produce.
If only they can sell some version of this thinking to a Republican-controlled House whose members may not be in the mood for compromising. Some may remain mired in prejudices that say a leap off the fiscal cliff may be survivable, preferable to giving millions of Americans a chance to legally enjoy a game many of them are already playing anyway.
Millions in additional tax revenues would also be helpful during this time of much talk and little action about how to best chop a multi-trillion-dollar deficit down to a manageable size.
Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. He can be reached at [email protected].