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Arizona Senator Pushing Online Gaming Restrictions

28 January 2004

by Tony Batt

Stephens Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said Tuesday he will try again this year to usher Internet gambling restrictions through the Senate.

Kyl disputed reports that the Senate Republican leadership may be reluctant to schedule a vote on Internet gambling in an election year.

"I'm part of the leadership, so I would ordinarily sit in a meeting in which that would be discussed. So you're telling me something that doesn't sound true to me," said Kyl, who is chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee. "My plan is to try to get it up for a vote."

Kyl said he did not know when the vote might occur.

Among its restrictions, the Kyl bill would prohibit Nevada and other states from legalizing online wagering within their borders.

That provision is the primary reason the American Gaming Association, the casino industry's chief lobbying arm in Washington, opposes Kyl's bill.

The prohibition against states is not included in a bill that cleared the House in June by a vote of 319-104.

Kyl said he is willing to consider "reasonable changes," but noted the Senate Banking Committee approved his bill by a 19-0 vote in July.

If the Senate passes Kyl's bill and lawmakers resolve differences with the House bill, Internet gambling restrictions could become law by the end of the year.

Kyl confidently predicted in the fall that the Senate would pass his bill by the end of 2003. But as Congress rushed to adjourn for the year, appropriations bills and Medicare reform took priority, and the Senate did not vote on Internet gambling.

Kyl may still face an uphill battle. Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., say they oppose Internet gambling, but they do not support Kyl's bill.

"I still haven't seen anything that I thought could be enforced," Ensign said. "If we're going to enact a law, I want it to be an effective law."

Internet gambling is not the biggest menace to Nevada's casino industry, Ensign said.

"The biggest threat to the state of Nevada is still tribal gaming in California and Arizona," he said.

Estimates of online wagers last year surpassed $4.2 billion on more than 1,800 offshore Web sites.

Like the House bill, Kyl's bill would ban the use of credit cards, checks and other bank instruments to pay for online wagers.

That isn't good enough for Reid, who said he favors a blanket ban of Internet gambling.

"I think Internet gambling is flawed. I don't think you can control it," Reid said.

Kyl has been trying to pass legislation to crack down on Internet gambling since 1996.

"We have a whole year to get it done. I'm assuming we'll get it done," Kyl said.

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