In a later, secretly recorded conversation with the then-Attorney General Swallow, widely publicized in Utah, Johnson related how he asked one of the poker executives how the industry was able to obtain Reid’s support.
“I said how in the hell did you guys get him to do that. And he says let's just say he got a little something in his retirement fund. And I was like okay, that's how it is," Johnson says in the recording.
The secretly recorded conversation between Johnson and Swallow took place in a Krispy Kreme donut shop in Orem, Utah on April 30, 2012 and its revelation in the Salt Lake City Tribune helped spark the investigation.
Reid’s spokesman said the Senator always opposed “broad-based on line gambling,” but said Reid had, over time, decided to alter his longstanding opposition to on-line poker before the meeting and denied Reid had offered to change his position on on-line poker in return for campaign contributions.
“Senator Reid became convinced over time that states should be allowed to decide for themselves whether to allow on-line poker,” said Jentleson, the spokesperson. “New regulations and new technologies have been developed, including technologies that would enable sites to block minors,” the spokesperson added.
One month after his re-election in a closely contested race in 2010, Reid’s office issued a statement saying he was “working to pass” a bill that would legalize on-line poker. The Senator dropped the proposal one month later.
“Senator Reid’s position on online poker will always be based on what is best for Nevada jobs, and he will never stop fighting for Nevada jobs,” the Senator’s spokesman said.
Jeffrey Ifrah, an online gaming industry attorney, says he attended the 2010 event with about 60 to 70 others and does not think Reid’s change in position was connected to campaign contributions.
And he said any comments about Reid’s retirement fund were likely a joke.
“Let me tell you something about gamblers, they don't give their money to anybody and I highly doubt they would have given it to Reid. When they have cash to spend they gamble with it period,” he said.
Rawlings and Gill said they remain unsure where the evidence will lead, but they believe a deeper, federal investigation is needed.
“We're limited and we're bound by only what we can prosecute-- under Utah state code. But are there ramifications beyond that? Absolutely,” Rawlings said. “The breadth, the scope and the depth of this investigation is far beyond I think what's out there in the general public knowledge."
This story was updated to further explain Sen. Reid’s efforts to promote online poker legislation in December 2010.
Sammy Linebaugh (@SammyLinebaugh) is a freelance reporter based in Utah.
John Solomon, a former Deputy AP Washington Bureau Chief and now the Editor of The Washington Times, contributed reporting to this story. All interviews were conducted by ABC News.