Harry Reid Affirms Support for Sheldon Adelson’s RAWA Bill in ‘Monumental Flip-Flop’
US Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s cross-aisle support for the Sheldon Adelson-funded “Restoration of America’s Wire Act” (RAWA) bill is back in the news this week, with Reid reiterating his fondness and probable intent for backing a nationwide ban on all forms of Internet gambling, now even including online poker.
Reid made his latest comments supporting his personal friend Adelson’s “crony capitalism” demands in a brief interview with the hometown Las Vegas Sun. Said Reid, reiterating comments he made in March indicating his support for RAWA or a similar federal ban, “Unless we can get something done with poker, I’m going to look closely — I haven’t made up my mind — but I’m going to look closely into banning it totally.”
Added Reid, “I’m going to take a hard look at it. It would be something I would certainly consider strongly.”
That Reid now plans on throwing online poker in with the rest of the United States’ regulated online-gambling future and attempt to keep everything from progressing into the modern world comes as disappointment to many, including other Nevada corporate and government interests that have already invested heavily in that state’s online-poker. Along with New Jersey and Delaware, Nevada remains only one of the three states to formally regulate online gambling at the state level, though Nevada’s is unique in that it is poker-only.
Back in March, Reid told Nevada radio station something along the same lines. Said Reid, in a statement that defied reality, “I worked very hard to get online poker. I thought [it] would be great for the state of Nevada; it’s something that is done recreationally around the world. I thought it would be great for Nevada to get it controlled. That didn’t work, could not get it done.”
No doubt that came as a shock to Nevada’s state legislature and gaming regulators, where online poker is authorized and regulated and is played by its residents, 24/7, on state-approved sites.
One could blame senility for such a bizarre series of statements, except the stab-in-the-back move is classic Reid. Given that he’s already announced he’s not seeking reelection for his US Senate, Reid now seems set on settling up his personal and political markers and positioning himself as lucratively as possible for his post-Senate career.
That likely involves courting Adelson’s continuing favor, as well as that of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Though he’s liberal by Mormon standards, Reid is surely aware of the LDS church’s adamant opposition to online gambling, and Reid himself has been widely rumored to be seeking a high-level LDS position in his retirement years.
Yesterday’s LVS feature on Reid joining the Sheldon Adelson RAWA parade drew plenty of scorn, with a handful of prominent poker figures visiting the newspaper’s online portal to leave comments blasting Reid.
Rich Muny, for example, who doing work hours serves as the Poker Players Alliance’s vice president of public relations, blasted Reid for his abandonment of online poker. Wrote Muny:
This is truly sad. Sen. Reid claimed for so long to be pro-poker that it’s truly a monumental flip-flop. Nevada’s online poker is operating without any issues regarding geolocation, age and identity verification, or collusion surveillance. Even he hasn’t cited any problems at all with Nevada’s online poker. He hasn’t even cited any issues with any state’s online poker.
Does the decision regarding Nevada’s online poker belong to Nevada or Washington politicians? I think we all know the right answer. Reid needs to think more about Nevada and less about Sheldon Adelson.
Muny’s quote referenced the since-abandoned Reid-Kyl Bill, a 2012 proposal (which was a lousy bill) that included an online-poker carveout. Reid has since shown no desire to resume battling for any form of online poker in the US, despite his home state’s interests and fledgling industry. The PPA itself has yet to issue a formal statement responding to Reid’s latest RAWA embrace.
State of Washington resident Curtis Woodard, a prominent West Coast players advocate, was another voice offering a public shaming of Reid. Wrote Woodard:
[The State of] Washington is a perfect example of why a ban on online gambling will not produce the desired results. The simple fact is that, despite the hollow threat of a felony prosecution (to date there have been zero, against player or operator), Washington State players can still play on the largest US facing online poker site, while that site does not take new players from the three regulated states. Clearly, prohibition will not work. A regulated alternative would bring players to sites with oversight and consumer protections, a market solution that will drive offshore operators out of the market.
Despite the clear common sense displayed in both comments, Reid’s recent statements indicate that he’s all about Adelson’s deep-pocketed funding than he is about what’s already been shown to work.
As for the RAWA bill itself, it remains to be seen whether its backers can generate enough broad-based support to force a vote on the measure this year. Adelson’s political-donation excesses have raised a unique form of conservative nausea in Washington DC: Strict constitutional conservatives love Adelson’s millions, but generally despise his usurping of the American political process in an attempt to get his pet RAWA bill passed. This means that despite Adelson’s fortune, RAWA remains far from a sure bet, venal politicians such as Harry Reid notwithstanding.