This past Tuesday the last bill of the year made by Congress demurred to support billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson’s call for a ban on legalized internet gambling. This $1.1 trillion bill is meant to fund most of the US government’s operations through September of next year. This makes it an absolute necessity to pass. It also includes a bunch of individual policy provisions that lawmakers and special interests have pushed for.
House leaders refused to get involved that provoked a very marked division in the casino industry and roused speculation of an atypical alliance between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Sheldon Adelson, a prominent conservative.
The extensive spending bill did not include the endowments that Adelson has been pushing for that would restore federal law to ban all forms of internet gambling. The Justice Department gave their opinion in December of 2011 saying that the relevant law, the Interstate Wire Act of 1961, only outlaws ports betting online.
Reid stated Tuesday that this year’s debate over internet gambling is basically over. This is the third consecutive Congress that attempted to create a federal strategy on legalized internet gambling only to come to nothing.
“If we can’t get it into the omnibus, it won’t be in anything,” Reid said in a succinct interview of the online prohibitions. This spending bill is the last must-pass bill fashioned before lawmakers adjourn.
On the flip side, Caeser’s Entertainment Corp. officals were pleased that the anti-internet gambling words were left out of the bill, since they operate internet gambling sites in Nevada and New Jersey. “We believe that banning Internet gaming is bad public policy from our perspective,” said Caesars Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Jan Jones Blackhurst. “We’re pleased this issue will be discussed openly and not hidden in some omnibus bill.”
Majority Leader Reid has barely commented on this topic of internet gambling this year. In the past he had supported legislation that would prohibit internet gambling although it would sculpt out a big hole for internet poker. The advocates for online poker say that it is not a game of chance as much as it is a game of skill. This stance was consistent with Nevada law that legalized internet poker but not any of the other forms of gambling on the internet.
In the past few months Reid turned into the target of much conjecture that he had formed an alliance with Adelson, chairman of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Adelson is also one of the nation’s leading conservatives. They do say that they hold a friendly relationship despite the fact that their political views are utterly and absolutely opposed. Adelson also supports the Republicans financially in a major way. The Republican party could prove to be a major obstacle for Reid’s re-election in 2016.
Lots of sections in the $1.1 trillion spending bill directly affect Nevada. Here are some of them:
- It contains no funding to revive the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project.
- It allows the Environmental Protection Agency $7.85 million to begin displacing Las Vegas offices and laboratories from the campus of UNLV to the Harry Reid UNLV Research and Technology Park in the southwest valley.
- It renovates the federal-private sector partnership that promotes U.S. destinations to visitors from overseas dubbed the Travel Promotion Act.
- It forbids the Fish and Wildlife Service from scripting a final decision in 2015 whether sage grouse populations in Nevada should be declared an endangered or threatened species.
- It stipulates $442 million of “payments in lieu of taxes” for division among Western counties that contain considerable tracts of federal land.
- It apportions $2 million for programs contending the intrusive quagga mussel, with precedence going to Lake Mead in Nevada and Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona.
- It disallows the Drug Enforcement Agency from spending funds in any way that might undermine medical marijuana programs in states where they are legal, including Nevada.
All these points are covered in the omnibus spending bill, but the ban on internet gambling is not. This is pretty good news for all you Palace of Chance members. Let’s hope things stay this way.