Reid: Payroll tax bill doesn't include online poker

17 February 2012
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sen. Harry Reid put a sudden end to speculation and the hopes of card sharks when he declared that major payroll tax legislation unveiled Thursday did not contain legalization for Internet poker.

As details of the tax cut bill were being unfurled, Reid, the Senate majority leader from Nevada, said online poker was not in it. He did not elaborate on a quick comment made to a reporter as he entered a Senate elevator.

Poker players had invested in some hope the payroll tax bill could be the setting to legalize poker-playing on the Internet and establish sets of rules for games to be licensed and overseen by a federal agency and the states.

They plan to continue their vigil.

"While we were hopeful the payroll tax bill would include a bill to license and regulate online poker in the U.S., the Poker Players Alliance supports any other vehicle in which this can happen this year and believe this is a decision best left to the lawmakers," said Rich Muny, vice president of player relations for the organization.

As Nevada gaming companies seek to tap a new and lucrative source of revenue online, Reid has been engaged in negotiations with Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., on the topic.

The talks have been taking place under a veil of public silence, which served to stoke rumors and speculation about their progress.

It also prompted push back lobbying by Indian tribes worried about being left out of any deal, and also lottery interests that prefer online poker be made legal through state action and not by the federal government.

Proponents of legalization had estimated that a federal bill could yield about $30 billion in revenue through license fees and taxes, but few details emerged as to whether poker even was on the table during negotiations on the payroll tax measure.

The payroll tax bill was expected to be one of the few major bills able to pass Congress before the November elections. Lawmakers are expected to return to work following Election Day.

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