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Emily D. Swoboda

New York Meeting to Address I-Gaming Regulation

23 May 2006

The former head of New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's IT law team has assembled a group of legal and gaming professionals to debate the legalization and regulation of online gambling in the United States. The group will meet on Wednesday in New York City.

"It is very difficult to see the practical success of these types of broad-ranging (prohibition) bills. It's a fight against technology, and that's a very hard fight to win."
- Ken Dreifach
Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal

With two anti-Internet gambling bills (Rep. Bob Goodlatte's, R-Va., HR 4777, the "Internet Gambling Prohibition Act", and Rep. James Leach's, R-Iowa, HR 4411, the "Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006") in Congress and the Jack Abramoff scandal weighing heavily on the I-gaming industry, the diverse panel of four will discuss and debate the current state of the law regarding online gambling and possible solutions for the future of the industry's presence in the United States.

Attorney Ken Dreifach orchestrated the event and will serve as moderator. Dreifach is one of the country's foremost Internet lawyers, with a unique hand in the government sector. Until the end of April, he was chief of Spitzer's Internet Bureau, which coordinates statewide law enforcement efforts regarding online consumer fraud, privacy, securities trading, gambling, access for the disabled and other Internet-related issues. He joined the law firm of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal (where he now counsels clients on their rights under proposed I-gaming laws) as partner on May 15. He also chairs the Information Law Technology Committee, which is sponsoring Wednesday's debate.

"It is very difficult to see the practical success of these types of broad-ranging (prohibition) bills," Dreifach said. "It's a fight against technology, and that's a very hard fight to win."

The panel will discuss online gambling trends (where it's going and where it should be going); views on what future decisions the government should make regarding the legalization, regulation, or criminalization of online gambling; and activities that help facilitate it.

"It affects a lot more people, entities and trade groups than one might think," Dreifach said. "We're talking about online gaming operators, offline gaming, the people who work for them and the financial industries."

The panel members are Ira Block, New York City Off Track Betting Corporation executive vice president, legal affairs and general counsel; Frank Catania, president of Catania Consulting Group and former director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement; Joseph DeMarco, assistant United States Attorney, Southern District of New York; and Michael Tew, a principal at political consultancy firm Capital HQ.

Among the group, Catania has been the strongest supporter of regulation; he has been clear about his position on Internet gambling and honest about the positions of certain members of Congress.

"If regulation of the Internet is a slippery slope, then surely an outright ban of an Internet activity constitutes falling off the cliff," Catania said in an editorial published in early May.

Catania served as the first president of the International Masters of Gaming Law, a non-profit association dedicated to the education and advancement of gaming law; vice chair and chair of the International Association of Gaming Regulators He was also instrumental in the creation and implementation of the interactive gaming regulations for the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, located outside Montreal.

DeMarco's experience with online gambling, meanwhile, goes back to his successful prosecution of Jay Cohen, then 33, for operating an offshore Internet sports betting business that accepted bets from the United States. Cohen was the only one of 21 people charged with the same offense that was convicted.

Tew has provided advisory services to the FBI and was a prominently featured source in a December 2002 U.S. General Accounting Office report titled "Internet Gambling: An Overview of the Issues." He maintains a monthly political column in Casino Enterprise Management, a gaming industry trade magazine, and is on the editorial board of Gaming Law Review, a legal resource for gaming industry professionals.

Block's position will be of particular interest considering racing's volatile position in Washington, where prohibition bills have gone back and forth between an all-out ban on Internet gambling and a restrictive law with racing exemptions.

"[The horseracing industry] is better without the competition," Dreifach said, "but it could certainly benefit from well written legislation."

The debate will begin at 6:30 PM (EST) at the House of the Association, 42 West 44th Street, New York City.

New York Meeting to Address I-Gaming Regulation is republished from
Emily D. Swoboda
Emily D. Swoboda