Bill to legalize online poker gains sponsors

Jul 28, 2009 7:32 PM
by David Stratton |

Congressman Barney Frank’s effort to legalize online poker is picking up steam.

According to the Congressman, there are now 50 members of Congress signed on as co-sponsors of his Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act (H.R. 2267), legislation Barney Frank (D-MA), chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services, introduced earlier this year.

"Reaching this milestone illustrates that momentum is growing for a shift in U.S. policy and a rewrite of U.S. Internet gambling laws," said Jeffrey Sandman, spokesperson for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative. "The list of supporters will continue to grow as more representatives are educated on the subject and increasingly hear from their constituents that Internet gambling regulation presents the only viable way to protect consumers, since attempts to prohibit the activity have completely failed."

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Among the bipartisan group of 50 co-sponsors are many senior ranking representatives, including George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, John Conyers (D-MI), chairman of the Committee of the Judiciary, Charles Rangel (D-NY), chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, Edolphus Towns (D-NY), chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Pete King (R-NY), ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee and Ron Paul (R-TX), vice-chairman of the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee. (A complete list of co-sponsors is included below.)

Rep. Frank’s bill would establish a framework to permit licensed gambling operators to accept wagers from individuals in the U.S. and mandates a number of significant consumer protections, including safeguards against compulsive and underage gambling, money laundering, fraud and identify theft.

Additional provisions in the legislation reinforce the rights of each state to determine whether to allow Internet gambling activity for people accessing the Internet within the state and to apply other restrictions on the activity as determined necessary. The legislation also would allow states and Native American tribes with experience in regulating gambling to play a role in the regulatory process.

While visiting Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker earlier this month, Frank redicted his proposed legislation lifting the ban on Internet gambling would be passed this fall, perhaps as early as September.

"I plan to introduce both bills in committee this fall," Chairman Frank said. "I think they’re going to pass."

The two bills include HR 2267, would regulate Internet gambling and ensure that taxes are collected from wagers placed over the Internet, and HR 2266, which would suspend for one year compliance with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA), which requires financial institutions to freeze payments to Internet gambling sites.

"I’m fairly optimistic we’re going to get this (UIGEA) appealed," Frank said.

Frank said the UIGEA was an ill-conceived law, based on fears of money laundering and the spread of sports betting on the Internet.

"Money laundering’s not a real reason – there’s nothing peculiar about gambling," Frank said. "It’s easy to come up with regulations to prevent these abuses."

And it was the sports leagues, such as the NFL and NCAA, which lobbied heavily for the Internet ban, Frank said.

"They took the extraordinary position that Internet gambling would lead to betting on sporting events," Frank said. "Well, I grew up in New York and long before the Internet there were a lot of people who already thought they were betting on games."

Frank, who last year sponsored a similar bill, cited several factors that have changed the political climate in Washington, D.C.

"Last year our bill passed in committee, but had no chance because Bush would have vetoed it," Frank said. "But, now we have a president who isn’t in the pocket of the right wing."

There has also been a groundswell of support among Americans, who have become tired of being told "how to spend their time and money," Frank said.

"Word has spread among thousands of poker players," Frank continued, "who woke up one day and discovered that what they enjoy doing has been banned."

An analysis shows that collecting taxes on regulated Internet gambling would allow the U.S. to capture much-needed revenue in an amount ranging from $48.6 billion (excluding online sports gambling) to $62.7 billion (including online sports gambling) over the next decade.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: David Stratton