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Tony Batt

Reid Against Frist's Efforts

20 September 2006

WASHINGTON -- Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada on Tuesday said he would oppose efforts by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., to attach an Internet gambling ban to another bill in the closing days of Congress.

"That would be unfortunate," Reid said.

Although Reid has said he would vote to ban Internet gambling because he thinks it cannot be effectively regulated, he has also said he could support a study of online wagering by a federal commission.

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., said he would support a ban and a study.

"I would support the proposed ban on Internet gambling if it was paired with legislation to study online gaming's prevalence and the impact of emerging technology," Ensign said in a statement.

Ensign said the proposed ban is not a permanent solution but would curtail Internet gambling and "protect children" while a study is conducted.

In April, Nevada casinos called for a study of Internet gambling. One month later, Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev., introduced a bill calling for an 18-month study of online betting by a federal commission. Porter's bill has 50 co-sponsors but almost certainly will not pass this year. If he is re-elected, Porter is expected to revive the bill in 2007.

Frist spokeswoman Amy Call said the majority leader continues to search for other bills that could be used as a vehicle to prohibit online wagering.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., also is trying to broker a deal that would allow Internet gambling restrictions, according to a lobbyist who requested anonymity.

Frist and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., were stymied last week in trying to add the ban to a defense bill.

"It's not germane," said Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. "It would make the (defense) bill out of scope. It's a totally out-of-scope provision."

The National Football League, which has consistently opposed sports betting, is assisting Frist in lobbying aggressively to prohibit online wagering.

NFL lobbyist Martin Gold, who is a former counsel to Frist, is directing the lobbying efforts, sources said.

While it opposes betting on its games, the NFL does not oppose fantasy sports leagues. In fantasy sports, a fan can select a team of NFL players to compete against other fantasy teams based on statistics.

The Internet has helped fantasy sports boom into a $1.5 billion industry. Some have argued the NFL is hypocritical in supporting an Internet gambling ban without opposing fantasy sports.

"Fantasy sports games are not covered by this bill -- nor covered by previous Internet gambling bills that have passed one congressional house or another in recent years -- because legislators in Washington do not view fantasy sports as form of gambling," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

Reid Against Frist's Efforts is republished from