Online gambling finds the political spotlight

Feb 10, 2009 5:02 PM
Staff & Wire Reports |

With changes coming from Washington, D.C. in unprecedented fashion, the possible legalization of online gambling might be the next issue to find the political spotlight.

Last week, Congressman Barney Frank, chair of the Financial Services Committee, vowed to reintroduce a bill "within weeks" that, if passed into law, would reverse the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which made it illegal for banks and credit card firms to process online bets in the U.S.

The proposed legislation would also create a licensing and regulatory mechanism for online gaming operators.

In an interview with the Financial Times of London, Frank said that the UIGEA, which was passed in late 2006, was an ill-conceived law because Americans "are demanding the right to gamble online."

Of course, Frank tried to build support for similar legislation last year without success, but the new climate in Washington might offer fertile ground for Frank’s initiative.

Strengthening his case has been calls for the government to consider legalizing sports betting, which finds solid support on the Internet, but is only legal in Nevada.

According to a Merrill Lynch estimate, sports betting online could reach $200 billion by 2015.

Last week, both the Huffington Post and Bloomberg ran articles calling for Congress to legalize sports wagering. At the crux of their arguments was the dramatic need for public revenues and the billions of dollars in sports transactions that go untaxed every year.

A case in point was the recent Super Bowl, which generated about $80 million bet legally in Nevada, but resulted in an estimated $6 billion to $7 billion in online and illegal wagers.

Over 10 years ago, the National Gaming Impact Study Commission estimated that U.S. citizens bet over $360 billion a year on sports. The Huffington Post estimated that number may have doubled by now.

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