Decriminalising many forms of Internet gambling in the United States 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.
The Wall Street Journal reports that after reviewing legislation aimed at lifting online gambling bans and the UIGEA, the Committee concluded such a move would generate $41.8 billion over 10 years.
The legislation, championed by House Financial Services chairman Congressman Barney Franks and sponsored so far by 62 Representatives, would guarantee individual state rights to support federal regulation and taxation of Internet gambling or not, and maintain bans on sports betting, but would liberalise other forms of online gambling.
In the Senate, similar legislation has been introduced, the WSJ reports.
"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," the newspaper claims.
"Others say that by keeping the [UIGEA] ban in place, potential sources of revenue to fund needed government programs are being wasted."
Rep. Jim McDermott - a Democrat from Washington who has authored a complementary tax bill for Frank's proposal - said: "I'm always looking for money to deal with some of the problems I see out there. 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 the savings estimate would certainly get the party leaders' attention.
In the Senate, Oregon senator Ron Wyden withdrew a proposal earlier this year to legalise online gambling and use the tax revenue to help finance the controversial overhaul of federal healthcare legislation (see previous InfoPowa report). At the time there was speculation that he had succumbed to political pressure, but the WSJ uses the issue as an illustration of the increasing awareness among politicians of the useful revenues that could be claimed through a tax on legalised online gambling.
The JCT estimate is based on a small 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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