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Politicians point fingers over Web poker delay

WASHINGTON – Asked Tuesday what is holding up passage of an online poker bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid offered a one-word response: “Republicans.”

Reid, speaking to reporters outside the Senate chamber, said support from at least a dozen Republicans is needed to win passage of a bill legalizing online poker. So far, the GOP hasn’t delivered.

“At this point, we’ve got none,” Reid said.

The legislation is seen as a boon to Nevada casinos seeking to tap into the billions of dollars now wagered online, and is supported by Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

Heller chuckled when told of Reid’s response.

“That’s his answer to everything – blame Republicans,” Heller said.

The two had clashed in September over the same issue but with a sharper edge as Heller was in the midst of an election campaign.

Reid blamed Heller for failing to win Republican votes, while Heller contended Reid was setting him up and playing politics with the online poker issue .

Heller said Tuesday that he is actively seeking support for the bill from his Republican colleagues. He is meeting today with Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., to discuss the bill.

“I am beating the bushes,” he said.

Heller is not sure he can deliver as many Republican votes as Reid says are needed – increasing the odds against Congress legalizing online gaming this session.

“It’s going to be tough,” he said.

The Poker Players Alliance favors legalizing online poker but would amend the draft by Reid and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., to relax restrictions on overseas providers, and broaden the landscape for more global competition among poker players.

The National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures have raised objections to the draft, seeing it as limiting states’ opportunities to raise revenue from online lotteries and other forms of gambling.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau reporter Peter Urban at purban@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760.

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