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Bill Lifting US Online Gambling Ban Seen Raising $42B in Rev

10/29/09 - Wall Street Journal - View Source

By Corey Boles

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--A measure decriminalizing many forms of Internet gambling would raise nearly $42 billion for the U.S. Treasury over the next decade, according to an analysis conducted by a non-partisan congressional scorekeeper.

The Joint Committee on Taxation said that after reviewing legislation that would lift an online gambling ban, it concluded the move would generate $41.8 billion over 10 years.

The legislation would allow Internet poker, but continue a ban on other forms of gambling, including betting on professional sports.

House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D., Mass.) has championed the idea, and has said he hopes his committee will formally consider the bill soon.

To date, around 60 House lawmakers have signed on to support it.

In the Senate, similar legislation has been introduced.

The effort to lift the ban imposed by the Republican-controlled Congress in late 2006 has become a popular cause for some Democratic lawmakers who believe the law imposed unjust restrictions on individual rights.

Others say that by keeping the ban in place, potential sources of revenue to fund needed government programs are being wasted.

"I'm always looking for money to deal with some of the problems I see out there," said Rep. Jim McDermott (D., Wash.), a supporter of the measure. "This looked like a good place to find some revenue."

He said the House Democratic leadership hadn't indicated whether it would support the legislation, but he said the savings estimate would get the party leaders' attention.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) attempted to bring forward legislation to legalize online gambling, proposing to use the revenues raised to help pay for the health-care overhaul legislation. He was unsuccessful, but the attempt shows lawmakers are increasingly aware of the potential revenues that could be generated by lifting the ban.

The JCT estimate is based on a fee that would be levied on all deposits U.S. residents make with online gambling companies.

The Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative, a group lobbying for the ban to be lifted, said that Americans gamble around $100 billion online annually.

"With the completed analysis and support for Internet gambling regulation growing daily, it's only a matter of time before Congress acts and begins allocating the billions in new revenue sitting on the table to one program or another," Michael Waxman, a spokesman for the group said.

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