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December 7, 2016

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Reid renews push to ban online gaming, maybe even poker

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Steve Marcus

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Interstate-11/Boulder City Bypass project near Boulder City Monday, April 6, 2015. The $318 million project is expected to be completed in 2018 and create about 4,000 jobs.

WASHINGTON — Sen. Harry Reid is receptive of Sheldon Adelson's push to ban all forms of online gambling, including poker.

Reid said in an interview Monday that if he isn't able to get an exemption for poker from a proposed ban of online gaming making its way through Congress, he would consider supporting a full online gaming 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," Reid said. "I'm going to take a hard look at it. It would be something I would certainly consider strongly."

Online poker is legal and up and running in Nevada. Poker and other online gambling is legal in New Jersey and Delaware, with at least 10 more states considering joining in.

The Senate minority leader’s comments give momentum to a federal ban moving through the House of Representatives, aided by the unlimited funding of Adelson, Las Vegas Sands' CEO and online gaming's biggest opponent.

Reid's comments double down on what the retiring Nevada Democrat said in a March interview with KNPR: That if a bill moving forward in the House of Representatives to ban online gaming makes it to the Senate, he'll "give it a good hard try to get it done over here."

Reid also said on KNPR that last time he tried to rally support for a poker carve out, he couldn't get enough votes.

"I worked very hard to get online poker," he said. "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."

A bill introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, to ban online gaming had a hearing in March and is expected to move forward to a potential vote. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and 2016 presidential contender, is also expected to introduce a bill in the Senate to ban online gaming, which Reid said he would "take a hard look at."

The position puts Reid at odds with most of the casino industry in Las Vegas, including Caesars and MGM Resorts, who see Internet gaming as a way to expand their brand to millennials increasingly disinterested in traditional slot machines.

Advocates for online gaming also fear moving the industry underground to illegal, offshore sites will only increase chances for money laundering and preying on minors, crimes Adelson says he's worried about with the proliferation of gaming.

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