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Shurtleff on Legalized Gambling: Deal Me In

3/05/09 - Salt Lake Tribune

By Matt Canham

Washington » Prominent poker players have teamed with big Las Vegas casinos to push for a law legalizing -- and heavily regulating -- online gambling.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff likes the idea, as long as it doesn't lead to tribal casinos or other forms of gambling in Utah.

"It is going to happen anyway, let's put some regulation in place," he said.

Shurtleff heard a pitch from the Poker Players Alliance during the spring meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General in Washington, D.C.

They are working with Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., on legislation that would create a regulatory framework for online gaming, as long as it includes protections against underage gambling, compulsive gambling, money laundering and cheating. The bill, which is awaiting a hearing in the House, would counteract a 2006 bill that prohibited U.S. financial institutions from handling payments to gaming sites.

"Even though we outlawed it for two years now, it is still going on and it is highly unregulated, so you've got unscrupulous people rigging the system. People are getting ripped off," Shurtleff said.

The problem is that Utah is one of only two states that outlaws any form of gambling and under Indian gaming laws, if a state allows one form of gambling, it can't prevent tribes from starting their own casinos and other gaming establishments.

Shurtleff asked the poker alliance to consider a change to the legislation that would allow Utah to continue to block tribal casinos, but that may be difficult.

John Pappas, the executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, said he didn't want this proposal to "upset the balance struck in the Indian Gaming Regulations Act," the law that governs gaming on reservations. But he also said: "Our goal is not to bring brick and mortar casinos to Utah."

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