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Tony Batt

Gambling Foes Plan Legislative Move

8 March 2006

WASHINGTON, DC -- Supporters of an Internet gambling ban may try this week to add the prohibition to lobbying reform legislation on the Senate floor.

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., on Tuesday, said he may offer an online wagering ban amendment as early as today.

Online gambling revenues reached $10.9 billion in 2005, according to the research firm eMarketer. The exact number of gambling Web sites is uncertain, but the total is believed much higher than the 1,800 that existed in 2000.

Kyl, who has been trying to outlaw Internet gambling for more than a decade, was asked if the industry may have become too large and powerful to be banned.

"That is a concern," he said.

Meanwhile, Kyl has gained a Democratic ally -- Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas -- in pushing for an Internet gambling ban.

"Basically, the way the Internet has functioned is that it's really opened a lot of communities -- a lot of people to gambling that otherwise they couldn't do," Pryor said.

One of the reasons Kyl and other lawmakers are renewing efforts to ban Internet gambling is the fall of Jack Abramoff, a once-powerful lobbyist who pleaded guilty in January to three felonies in a fraud and bribery case.

Abramoff, who is cooperating in a federal investigation of corruption in Congress, has been accused of killing a House bill in 2000 by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., that would have banned online wagering.

Abramoff collaborated with an aide to then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, to defeat the proposed ban because it would have put one of his clients out of business, according to the Washington Post.

Ironically, DeLay is one of 118 co-sponsors of Goodlatte's bill this year.

Goodlatte re-introduced his bill on Feb. 16, saying Abramoff had been responsible for "widespread disinformation" about the 2000 measure.

Pryor said he agrees.

"It did appear that there were clearly some shenanigans on the House side perpetuated by Abramoff and (Republican consultant) Ralph Reed and others that basically cost the bill its passage," Pryor said.

Sharyn Stein, a spokeswoman for Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, said he will not decide how he will vote on the Kyl-Pryor amendment until he has had a chance to review it.

"In the past, Senator Reid has opposed Internet gambling because he has not been convinced it can be regulated by the same strict standards as casinos in Nevada," Stein said.

Calls to Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., were not returned.