Bill Would End Ban on Internet Gambling

A bill that would end a ban on wagering online in the United States was introduced May 6 by Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts.

The legislation targets the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, which effectively bans Internet betting by halting financial transfers. Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has railed against the ban since it became law.

The concept of Frank’s bill, called the Internet Gambling Regulation Consumer Protection & Enforcement Act, is to regulate, not ban, online wagering, and derive revenue from it. The bill would give the Treasury Department power to regulate and license Internet betting providers.

Currently, the only legal form of online wagering in the U.S. is pari-mutuel betting on horse races. The 2006 legislation contained provisions that protect interstate simulcasts and account wagering under the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978.

In a statement, National Thoroughbred Racing Association president and chief executive officer Alex Waldrop said the organization has a dialogue with Frank.

“The NTRA has worked and will continue to work with chairman Frank and others in Congress to ensure that any federal legislation that pertains to Internet gaming contains adequate protections for online pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing as authorized by the Interstate Horseracing Act,” Waldrop said. “Online pari-mutuel wagering helps sustain purses for horsemen, revenue for nearly 200 racetracks, and an industry providing 383,000 jobs and $26 billion annually for our national economy.”

The 2006 law was passed when the Republican Party had control of the White House and Congress; such is not the case in 2009. Still, some Washington, D.C., observers acknowledged the measure is contentious.

David Brodsky, CEO of Youbet.com, also weighed in on introduction of Frank’s bill. He called the legislation “welcome and realistic approach to U.S. Internet gambling,” and spoke out for personal freedom.

“Illegal U.S. online gambling is a growing multibillion-dollar industry,” Brodsky said in a statement. “Chairman Frank’s bill recognizes those realities, and would bring this underground activity into the light—regulating it to prevent underage gambling and help problem gamblers, recognizing the personal freedom rights of American adults to gamble online if they so choose, safeguarding their winnings and providing much-needed revenue in these difficult times.”

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