Four years ago, playing online poker was a gray-area activity, without legislation. Then, just as Congress was about to close out its 2006 lame-duck session the SAFE Port Act, designed to protect American ports from terrorists, gained approval -- with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (or UIGEA) grafted onto it.

The UIGEA forbade transferring funds from financial institutions to Internet gambling sites, using the dubious rationale that terrorists could exploit those sites to launder money. The law's passage caused one online poker entity to cease doing business with American players, making it arduous for new players to deposit money into sites that still wanted them.

It also cast a pall over the enterprise of online poker -- though you'd never know it from the commercials and leased-time TV shows that, on any given night of the week, hype websites like PokerStars and FullTilt.

Gambling on the Lame-Duck Session

Considering the UIEGA's genesis, it's fitting that the salvation of online poker may come on the back of another piece of congressional legislation: the recently announced tax-cut package, being presented at this month's lame-duck session. Nevada Senator Harry Reed (D) is attempting to introduce legislation that calls for online poker's regulation and taxation.

"We always anticipated that there would be an opportunity to push a proposal through at the lame duck," says John Pappas, executive director of The Poker Players Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying organization. "With the government needing money, we think there is a real opportunity here. The effort will be to get the bill through and signed into law."

But that may be easier said than done. Republican opponents of the bill are rallying hard against it. Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona told Politico that there is "zero chance -- no chance whatsoever that would be part of the tax deal." At least one congressional aide has taken to calling Harry Reid "Harrah" Reid, playing off the name of a casino that stands to gain greatly if Reid's proposal gets made into law. Harrah's, after all, owns the World Series of Poker franchise -- and management is champing at the bit to introduce an American online poker site connected with the most famous poker tournament in the world.

A leaked draft of Reid's proposal reveals a plan to have licensees pay a 20% tax on all deposits, and it calls for a 15-month online poker hiatus -- during which ongoing poker sites in the U.S. will temporarily stop operating here (in order to create a level playing field between new sites and existing ones). It would also have an initial two-year period during which gaming-machine manufacturers, as well as casino and race-track operators, would be the only entities licensed.

A Market Twice Today's Size

Unbothered by the moral qualms that Kyl and other online poker opponents like to raise, Pappas of the Poker Players Alliance envisions a bullish market if Reid's bill manages to pass. "We think online poker could go to twice the size that it is today," he enthuses. "Right now there are 10 million Americans with accounts, and we can see it going up to 20 million."

With all those poker neophytes expected online, veteran players must be viewing Reid as their unlikely ace in the hole.

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randy3452

Good ole boy Harry Reid. He is a disgusting back door politician that operates with one thing in mind...HIMSELF! The state of Nevada had a chance to put this guy in his place and re-elected him anyway. There is absolutely no monitoring of online anything, unless those operating the sport report accurate numbers. Just what do you think the chances of that are? We are talking Las Vegas style, goverment numbers. Numbers...as seen in elections, reports, and statistics are manipulated to say whatever they wish them to say. And we continue to insist that other countries need our "help"...Unbelievable!

December 10 2010 at 7:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
RYAN

Im a member of the PPA,lets play.

December 10 2010 at 6:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rjen164497

Harry Reid is a SLIMEBALL. This is his Paying back the Casino Operators for funding his campaign

December 10 2010 at 6:49 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
ssyankeeclipper

ried needs to help his casino mafia buds rob the ignorant poor like he does, this is how he won in nov. it was rigged just like the casino's in his state

December 10 2010 at 6:19 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Pat

I think those who are willing to trust the fairness of an online poker game are too naive to be allowed out on their own. Just as there is no voter verified paper trail to assess the accuracy of the outcomes of electronic voting machines, online game players have absolutely no way to determine the fairness of competitive games played online.

December 10 2010 at 6:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Pat's comment
RYAN

Ive been playing online real money for about 7 years now.Ive made money and Ive lost tournies over the years.If you dont play then you dont know what you are talking about.Maybe you do play and just never won anything.There are lots of ways to play holdem which is what I play and I like sit and go tournies the most.I played a 1265 player tourny which took 5 and half hours,I came in second.I came within 2 games of playing for 10 million dollars once,you had to win a 10 person sit and go but you had to win 5 of them and I won 3 coming in second on the last two.You are playing real people with chat boxes with people talking to each other on every game.I still enjoy playing when I can and I like the fact that one game can be life changing,thats a couple of hours work and you can pay off your house and the buy in might be 10 dollars or less.If you dont play then dont stop me from playing.Its a hobby of mine and I dont have a gambling problem,at this point I havent played in over 2 weeks ,I havent had the time.Im never on rieds side because hes a dem but this time he's trying to restore a freedom we lost so I hope he reverses bushs signing of this law.

December 10 2010 at 6:48 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Talerico

Dave, U forgot to mention about the cheating factor with on line gambling. Such as a means of someone seeing your hole cards and being able to know which cards are coming on the turn and river. Example Russ hamilton cheating on Bodog site to the tune of nine million dollars. Oh and nothing could be done to him. Oh yes they shut the site down for a few weeks. Thats your on line gambling. Not to mention pots being pushed to the wrong person. Example Phil Hellmoth being pushed over 5k dollars for a pot he didn't win. Magnum 44

December 10 2010 at 5:59 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Loren

Same as pot, legalize it and collect the taxes on winnings. The old farts in Washington are so backwards. Get out of peoples live and tax what they are using as recreation.

December 10 2010 at 4:42 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Loren's comment
dterraman

government has no right to tax pot

December 10 2010 at 5:34 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
falconsso

speaker of the house nancy pelosi's home district includes san fransisco. star-kist tuna's headquarters are in san francisco, pelosi's home district. star-kist is owned by del monte foods and is a major contributor to pelosi. star kist is the major employer in american samoa employing 75% of the samoan workforce. paul pelosi, nancy's husband, OWNS $17 MILLION DOLLARS OF STAR-KIST STOCK. in january, 2007 when the minimum wage was increased from $5.15 to $7.25, pelosi had american samoa exempted from the increase so del monte would not have to pay the higher wage. this would make del monte products less expensive than their competition's. last week (2008) when the huge bailout bill was passed, pelosi added an earmark to the final bill adding $33 million dollars for an 'economic development credit in american samoa'. pelosi has called the bush administration "corrupt". she should know.

December 10 2010 at 12:16 AM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to falconsso's comment
davefromfwb1

How come the news media don't report this? This sounds like a slam dunk to me.

December 10 2010 at 12:19 AM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
davefromfwb1

Who'd want to play online and not get comps? No free shows, no free buffets, no free drinks, no free rooms, no free plays.....if you play online guess what....NOTHINGS FREE!!!

December 09 2010 at 11:51 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
morphiss7

typical looser politician !!!!!! give the manuf, casinos and racetracks a 2 year headstart - amazing Harry ! this is America all business should be able to compete fairly. These big business sucks are ruining America - thanks Nevada

December 09 2010 at 11:45 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply