Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., are close to a deal on legislation to legalize online poker while tightening restrictions on other forms of Internet gaming and are seeking Republican support for the agreement, according to Reid and a Democratic aide.
"Here's the issue, Sen. Kyl and I've worked very hard. What we need to do is get some Republican support. That hasn't been forthcoming yet," Reid told Tech Daily Dose on Tuesday. He did not elaborate on where negotiations stand, but a Democratic aide said Reid and Kyl are close to a deal and are now trying to solicit GOP support.
The Democratic aide said Reid is looking to his fellow Nevada senator, Republican Dean Heller and Kyl to sell the deal to other Republicans.
Kyl was one of the authors of a 2006 law that aimed to curb online gambling by barring banks, credit card companies and others from processing payments for online bets.
Federal authority over online gambling, however, was tossed into limbo late last year after the Justice Department released an opinion reversing its interpretation of the 1961 federal Wire Act and said it no longer believed the law barred all Internet gambling. In response to state inquiries, Justice said in the memorandum that the Wire Act only applies to sports bets.
Many observers said the decision would open the door to state approval of online gambling operations in their borders. Several states have expressed an interest in such a move and Delaware last month became the first state to legalize online gambling within its borders. Given their longtime experience in running gambling operations, Reid would like Nevada-based casino companies to host online poker, an aide said.
Kyl said Monday that federal lawmakers need to clarify what the law is in the wake of the Justice Department's new interpretation of the Wire Act. "It's an opportunity to go back and revise the Wire Act, make sure that everybody knows that it applies to Internet gambling," he said.
Supporters of legalizing online poker argue that unlike other forms of gambling, poker is a game of skill and is less prone to fraud since players bet against each other and not the game operator. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, introduced a bill last year that would make online betting on poker legal.