Harry Reid Dances to Political Puppetmasters on Online Gambling
A major determinant of whether Barney Frank's bill licensing online gambling sites will weather its journey through the US Congress will be the position of the land-based casino lobby. The organization representing the casino empires, the American Gaming Association, and powerful national politicians controlled by gaming interests will need to decide if online casino regulation is finally to their benefit.
Frank Fahrenkopf was chairman of the Republican National Committee for seven years in the late 1980s. Harry Reid is currently a Democratic US Senator from Nevada, and Senate Majority Leader. The two seem unlikely to agree on much.
But Fahrenkopf is the current president of the AGA, whose constituency includes Harrah's, MGM Mirage, and Wynn Resorts. Reid is the senior Senator from a state whose most powerful industry by a mile is land-based gaming.
Fahrenkopf's group has been an ardent opponent of licensed Internet gambling. Casino giants intent on expanding their resort offerings did not want to brook new competition from an easily-accessed Internet. Lately, though, Fahrenkopf acknowledges a sea change, leaving the AGA membership divided in many directions on the online gaming issue, as some feel they are prepared to make online gambling their next expansion.
“Gaming is an important industry to the state, and anything that affects it will be reviewed carefully,” a Reid spokesman told the New York Times about Frank's bill. Reid has also expressed concerns about the effectiveness of regulation, but the gaming industry will likely tell him in the long run whether he has been convinced the current regulation plan works.
"Bipartisan politics sometimes means realizing that both sides are owned by people far more powerful than us, and hoping grass-roots pressure can overcome that disadvantage," said Nevada gambling observer Thomas Bilson.
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