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Lawmaker Makes Push for Legal Online Gambling

5/7/09 - Associated Press

By Kevin Freking

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's time to regulate gambling on the Internet rather than outlaw it, says Rep. Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

The Massachusetts Democrat introduced a bill Wednesday that is sure to please poker and blackjack players as well as those who like to wager on keno, roulette and other games of chance. But the opposition is formidable and includes conservative groups that view gambling as exploiting the vulnerable, particularly the poor.

Frank's bill would require Internet gambling providers to be licensed by the Treasury Department and regulated to protect children and to ensure the games are fair, the bill states. The department would review criminal and credit histories as well as financial statements as part of the application process.

No similar bill has been proposed in the Senate, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said that he opposes Internet gambling, dimming prospects for Frank's legislation.

Opponents of online gambling approved what amounts to a ban in 2006 as part of an unrelated port security bill. Under that legislation, financial institutions were prohibited from accepting payments from credit cards, checks or electronic fund transfers to settle online wagers.

The Bush administration moved in its final weeks to finish regulations enforcing the prohibition, and those regulations are set to go into effect Dec. 1. Frank also introduced a second bill Wednesday to delay compliance with the regulations for an additional year.

Rep. Shelley Berkely, D-Nev., whose district includes Las Vegas, voiced support for Frank's bill. She previously sponsored legislation that would require a study of online gambling.

"What we have now is an unworkable law passed by those opposed to all gaming, whether it's done by adults in Las Vegas or on the Internet," Berkely said. "So there is no question we must act to correct the problems caused by this failed crusade to ban Internet gaming."

Former New York Republican Sen. Alfonse D'Amato chairs the Poker Players Alliance, which says it will spend $3 million lobbying in this session of Congress to try to overturn the Internet gambling ban.

Among those in the other corner is the National Football League, which says gambling threatens the integrity of its games and has made preserving the Internet ban a priority. Frank's bill contains a provision that tries to address those concerns by continuing a general prohibition on sport gambling.

At least half the $16 billion Internet gambling industry, which is largely hosted on overseas sites, is estimated to be fueled by U.S. bettors.

Protecting Children
Compulsive Gambling Safeguards
Secure Financial Transactions
New Government Revenues
Regulated and Licensed Environment
International Ramifications
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