Bribery Claims in Nevada Online Poker Bill2 years ago
It’s the sort of story that gives both politics and poker a bad name – a convicted ‘career conman’ accusing a US Senator of demanding money in return for supporting online legislation.
Jeremy Johnson, who was sentenced to 11 years for making false statements to banks, has claimed that Nevada’s Democratic Senator Harry Reid made the pitch for money at a meeting in Las Vegas- in the presence of representatives of the online poker industry.
"Reid himself wasn’t really shy about it at all in our meeting,” Johnson told 2News reporters from his Utah prison. “He said, ‘Look my constituents are against any kind of online poker. They want people to come to Vegas. So I need your support. I need money, and if I get that, I’m going to introduce legislation that’s going to help your business.”
Johnson was a well-connected businessman who, among many other interests, ran a bank which processed online poker room payments, and he claims he recorded the meeting with Reid and others – but the recordings “seized by the government” and when eventually returned they were not “in a usable format.”
Of the mobile phone recording of meetings, Johnson claims:
"It was just my practice to do that, so that I could ... recall what happened in those meetings."
However, he says that when the recordings were handed back they were useless – four terabytes of raw data.
"It was too much,” he said. “I mean we’d just be listening to recordings for like three years straight.”
The murky goings-on in Las Vegas took place back in 2010, with a spokesperson for Reid telling Cardplayer magazine that “rumors” of a forthcoming bill on online poker were “greatly exaggerated.” By December of that year, however, CNN ran a story that Senator Reid "was pushing online poker legislation".
The inference is obvious according to Johnson who stated “I think an investigation would reveal a lot more about that,” referring to the claim that poker interests had paid Reid for his apparent U-turn on the subject.
According to Salt Lake City’s KUTV:
"Johnson was a prolific online marketer”, his company IWorks making “millions each month.”
However his downfall came about when customers demanded money back.
"It's alleged Johnson and others conspired to keep credit card processing going, even though the "charge-backs" were mounting”, said the station at the time “and would lead to what prosecutors said were losses to credit card firms in the range of $1.7 million. But Johnson was never convicted of fraud. Instead a jury found him guilty of the false statements.”
His recent interview came as he was due to be transferred from Tooele County Detention Center, to a federal prison to serve his 11 year sentence.
Senator Reid has yet to comment on the recent claims by Johnson, but reports have suggested that Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings is investigating the Democrat politician, but may need “more money, time, and cooperation.”
Nevada is the second-largest state offering regulated online poker sites in the US, and their regulated Internet poker space is dominated by WSOP.com according to Onlinepokerreport.
Nevada differs from New Jersey and Delaware in that Nevada only offers poker online – no casino games – but they also have the highest number of bricks and mortar casinos, a fact which makes online poker in the state such a touchy topic for those in the poker industry.
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