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Tony Batt

Exec doesn't expect online ban to be lifted soon

15 April 2008

WASHINGTON, DC -- Although he supports congressional efforts to roll back the Internet gambling ban, the vice president of a poker Web site on Monday said he is skeptical that will happen in the near future.

"I don't want to be a naysayer, but things move very, very slowly in Congress," said Jay Lakin, vice president of Poker Source Online, which is headquartered near San Jose, Costa Rica.

Lakin said he is taking a "wait and see attitude" about a bill introduced last week by Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Ron Paul, R-Texas, that would prevent the Department of Treasury and the Federal Reserve from proposing regulations to enforce the 2006 ban.

As for legislation by Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., calling for a one-year study of Internet gambling, Lakin said he doesn't see the point.

"It's nice of her to put it forward, but why should we spend more tax dollars to study something we already know the answer to? Internet gambling isn't going away, and it's going to continue to grow," Lakin said.

The chances for a repeal, he said, may improve after the November elections. "I see a sea change coming," he said.

Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., a sponsor of the ban, has said it is necessary to stop Internet gambling addiction.

"In 2006 alone, nearly 10 percent of college students gambled online," Bachus said this month during a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee.

In 2005, the year before the ban, about 2,500 Internet gambling Web sites produced about $15 billion in revenues.

The impact of the ban has been "huge," Lakin said. His Web site, which does not take bets but advises gamblers where they can play online poker, suffered a 50 percent drop in business after President Bush signed the ban in October 2006.

"That really motivated us. Now, we offer our services in seven different languages, and have more than recovered our losses," he said.

Prior to the ban, about 95 percent of his Web site's customers lived in the United States, Lakin said. Now, less than 50 percent of the Web site's customers are American.

Lakin said he is convinced a majority of Americans don't even know there is an Internet gambling ban and those who do are finding ways to get around it.

For example, an American gambler can establish a bank account in a foreign country to pay to play poker online.

Lakin estimated there are about 100,000 gamblers playing poker online at any given moment.

"The bottom line is if poker players in the United States stick with the big boys in Internet poker (Web sites), they have nothing to worry about," he said.

Despite his skepticism about congressional legislation, Lakin said he still wants the Internet gambling ban repealed.

He said it is hypocritical for the ban to include exemptions for horse racing, state lotteries and fantasy sports but not poker.

"That's like telling me I can go into a liquor store and buy vodka, but no gin," Lakin said. "I'm just disgusted by it."

Exec doesn't expect online ban to be lifted soon is republished from