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Tony Batt

Democrat Doubtful Internet Gambling Bill will Pass

24 October 2003

WASHINGTON, DC -- Congress is unlikely to pass a bill this year to restrict Internet gambling, the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee said Thursday.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said there is not enough time and there are too many other issues Congress must deal with before gaming can be considered.

"I think it's pretty clear they will not be able to get a bill this year. I don't know about next year," Frank said in an appearance before the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C.

Frank's pessimistic view contrasts with Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who predicted last month that Congress would pass Internet gambling restrictions before adjourning in 2003.

The House voted 319-104 on June 10 to restrict Internet gambling by banning the use of credit cards, checks and electronic fund transfers for online wagering.

On July 31, the Senate Banking Committee voted 19-0 to pass a bill by Kyl that mirrors the House measure except for one key provision.

To address concerns raised by the Department of Justice, Kyl's legislation would prevent Nevada and other states from legalizing online wagering within their borders.

The American Gaming Association objects to this provision and is attempting to change or remove it through negotiations with Kyl's staff. AGA President Frank Fahrenkopf has charged the Kyl bill would put casinos at a competitive disadvantage against Indian gaming, state lotteries and horse and dog racing operations.

Frank said Kyl faces the dilemma of exempting factions in gaming without losing the support of other interests in the same industry.

"I think there aren't the votes to do a complete ban, and once you start making exemptions and exceptions, the whole thing starts to unravel," Frank said.

Although he is the top Democrat on the committee that crafted the Internet gambling restrictions approved by the House, Frank adamantly opposed the bill and said it is fundamentally flawed.

"The fact is that if people want to gamble, obviously they ought to be free to gamble," Frank said.

Frank added he is frustrated by liberal colleagues who support Internet gambling restrictions.

"Gambling is to liberals as pornography is to conservatives," Frank said.

"I really believe that to many of my liberal friends ... gambling is kind of associated with tawdriness and the worst aspects of commercialism, has no redeeming social value and therefore, we ought to ban it," he said. "And that's really all there is to this."