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Tony Batt

Gaming losses ally

27 September 2007

WASHINGTON, DC -- The gambling industry lost a dependable ally last week when Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Ill., announced he would not seek re-election in 2008.

Weller, 50, is stepping down after seven terms amid a growing controversy regarding land dealings in Nicaragua.

"It's a loss," said Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association.

From 1999 through 2006, Weller helped fill a void for casinos on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees tax legislation.

"Jerry came to me after John Ensign left the committee to run for the Senate," Fahrenkopf said. "He said the industry had been good to him and his district, and he worked very closely with our office."

Weller, whose district includes riverboat casinos in Joliet, introduced legislation in April 2001 that would have allowed casinos and other businesses to deduct computers, software and other technological equipment as an expense each year instead of spreading the cost over five years.

The Ways and Means Committee never acted on Weller's bill, and Fahrenkopf said it is unlikely the legislation would be revived in a Democratic Congress.

"It's going to be extremely difficult to get much passed in this Congress that would prevent the collection of revenue," said Fahrenkopf, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

The loss of Weller would have been more significant if Reps. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and Jon Porter, R-Ill., had not won seats on the Ways and Means Committee after last year's election, Fahrenkopf said.

The two most powerful members of the committee -- Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., who is chairman; and Rep. Jim McCrery, the ranking Republican from Louisiana -- also are considered friends of the casino industry.