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Play now! Harry Reid will do everything he can to legalize online poker. The Tax Cut Bill, initially thought to carry Reid's online poker initiative, will no longer be Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's method of choice.The Nevada Democrat, who maintains close ties to the gambling industry, had been working to build support for including the poker legalization in legislation to extend the Bush-era tax cuts. But when the 74-page tax cut bill was officially introduced late Thursday, it did not include the poker language.

If additional modifications are made before the final vote is cast, Reid could still insert the poker legalization into the tax-cut bill. Or he could slip the plan into a mammoth $1 trillion omnibus spending bill that has yet to be unveiled but is necessary to keep the government funded through September. Any option is certain to generate backlash from the GOP.With the lame-duck session winding down, Reid has a dwindling set of ways to enact the measure before next year, when Republicans, who tend to oppose gambling expansion, assume more seats in the Senate and take control of the House, dimming prospects for online poker legalization.

There is a 2006 bill called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which will be overturned. That law bars financial institutions from processing electronic payments for online gambling.  Reid previously opposed online gambling. And his critics have blasted his bill as political payback to the big casino interests that would reap millions of dollars from online poker and that helped him win reelection last month.  Reid issued a statement to his home state press corps Thursday evening confirming that he is crafting legislation to legalize online poker, framing the effort as a commonsense measure to regulate and tax gambling occurring through offshore companies.

Vegas is definitely behind the movement.  Las Vegas-based casino operators Harrah's, now known as Caesars Entertainment Corp., and MGM Resorts International – both of which support Reid’s bill – were among his most generous campaign contributors. Together, their employees and political action committees, contributed $275,000 to Reid’s reelection campaign, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.  And the two casino companies combined to contribute at least $375,000 to Patriot Majority, an independent political group that spent more than $3.3 million attacking Reid’s Republican rival Sharron Angle, whose down-to-the-wire campaign against Reid was fueled with millions from tea party donors.


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