- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Poker enthusiasts are hoping the odds might tip in their favor this year to overturn a law that hampers gambling in the United States over the Internet.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank on Wednesday is expected to reintroduce a bill that would repeal the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which prevents credit card companies from processing fund transfers to online-gambling sites.

The law, included with little debate in a 2006 port security bill, has drawn the ire of the gaming industry as well as civil libertarians.

But prominent family-values and conservative groups such as the Christian Coalition oppose gambling for moral reasons and are expected to fight repeal, arguing that Internet gambling in particular makes it easier for minors to bet.

The bill introduced by Mr. Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, would establish a framework to allow licensed gambling operators to process bets from players in the United States.

“Despite the current prohibition, millions of Americans wager more than $100 billion annually with offshore Internet gambling operators,” said Jeffrey Sandman, spokesman for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative. “Rather than tell Americans what they can and cannot do online in the privacy of their homes, Chairman Frank’s approach to regulate Internet gambling would protect consumers and allow the U.S. to generate billions in new revenue to fund critical government programs.”

Mr. Sandman’s group estimates that the government could collect as much as $62.7 billion in tax revenue over the next decade if the current restrictions were repealed.

David Cherry, a spokesman for Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley of Nevada, who previously co-sponsored Mr. Frank’s bill, noted that trade disputes also could influence the debate. A recent investigation by the European Union’s executive arm concluded that U.S. gambling laws violate World Trade Organization rules.

“I don’t know that a tremendous amount has changed from Congress to Congress, but there is increasing pressure on the U.S. from our trading partners,” Mr. Cherry said. “The poker players and others have now had two years to lobby on this, too, and they’ve been doing their homework to try to make sure people understand the issue a little more.”

Mr. Frank’s bill will have some powerful interests supporting it. Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. and other gaming companies back the change, as do a number of banks, state lotteries and the Poker Players Alliance, formed in the wake of the 2006 law.

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