Frank bill well received

Initial response - other than expected objections from Republican Representative Spencer Bachus - has initially been positive to the public introduction of Barney Frank's Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act (see previous InfoPowa report), which seeks to consign the much-criticised UIGEA to history by strictly regulating and licensing online casino and poker betting in the United States.

In unveiling the bill to the media Wednesday, Congressman Frank said: "Internet gambling in the United States should be controlled by a strict federal licensing and regulatory framework to protect underage and otherwise vulnerable individuals, to ensure the games are fair, to address the concerns of law enforcement, and to enforce any limitations on the activity established by the states and Indian tribes."

That statement effectively summarises key areas where the Congressman expects opposition to the bill - the protection of the vulnerable and underaged, guaranteeing the continued autonomy of individual states and native tribes regarding gambling laws, excluding criminal elements and money laundering, and ensuring the games are fair.

It is also clear from the draft that sportsbetting is excluded, thus ameliorating the challenge from national sports leagues and federal authorities intent on maintaining the Wire Act 1961.

In a companion taxation bill, Representative Jim McDermott appeals to income hungry legislators by suggesting that any operator licensed under the Frank bill is to pay a 2 percent fee to the government on all deposits.

"We are losing billions of dollars in federal and state taxes every year because a prior Administration and its supporters drove legitimate U.S. online gambling off-shore by passing an ill-conceived late-night amendment in Congress that has done nothing except make Americans more vulnerable to scams when they wager online and cost us billions in lost revenue," McDermott said. Earlier this week the SSIGI published revised figures that showed that tax revenues up to almost $63 billion could be reaped over the next 10 years from regulated online gambling.

The financial services industry, already battling with the ambiguous complexities of enforcing the UIGEA, to the detriment of state lotteries and horseracing, will also be relieved by a further bill launched by Congressman Frank - the Reasonable Prudence in Regulation Act of 2009, which proposes that the highly controversial regulations supporting the UIGEA be placed on hold for a year whilst Congress considers policy on the issue.

The Poker Players Alliance pledged to mobilise its over a million US members to support the new Frank initiative, probably through a re-energised "contact your representative" campaign.

"Online poker is a legal, thriving industry and poker players deserve the consumer protections and the freedom to play that are provided for in this legislation," PPA Chairman and former Senator Alfonse D'Amato said. "We are grateful for Chairman Frank's leadership and will be activating our grassroots army made up of over one million members to help him drive legislation.

"Chairman Frank's legislation addresses the need for licensing and regulation of online poker, ensuring the original objectives of the proponents of the overly vague Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) are met. By using the most modern technologies and regulatory authority, this bill goes further than UIGEA to keep children and problem gamblers off these sites, at the same time allowing for strong consumer protections for adult consumers who enjoy this recreational activity. Additionally, licensing and regulation presents an avenue for companies to return to the U.S., providing the economy with much needed jobs and tax revenue."

The statement goes on to note that key provisions of the bill include:

Thorough vetting of potential licensees;

Mandatory implementation of technologies to protect against underage gambling and to monitor and detect individuals with excessive gaming habits;

High standards to thwart fraud and abuse of customers;

Regulation to prevent money laundering;

Processes to prevent tax avoidance.

The CEO of gambling group Youbet, Michael Brodsky, commented: "Chairman Frank's bill is a welcome and realistic approach to U.S. Internet gambling.

"Illegal U.S. online gambling is a growing multi-billion dollar industry. 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 economic times."

"Banning Internet gambling has the same effect as the ban on alcohol had during Prohibition; it merely drives the activity underground, forgoes massive tax revenues and makes criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens," added Brodsky. "Youbet.com looks forward to sharing our experience in providing a safe, reliable and legal internet platform for adults who enjoy the horse racing experience with Congress and other policymakers as they begin consideration of this important legislation."

John K. FitzGerald, Chief Executive of the Interactive Gaming Council (IGC) said: “The IGC and it’s members enthusiastically endorse the legislation introduced by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank and Rep. Jim McDermott to license, regulate and tax non-sports Internet gaming in the United States. We believe that licensing and regulation is the best way to protect minors and problem gamblers, while respecting the rights of adults to select their own entertainment choices. Today, dozens of countries employ such regulatory systems, and it is time for the U.S. to do so as well.

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