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Tony Batt

Rules for online gambling tightened

16 October 2006

WASHINGTON -- For gamblers, it was probably appropriate that President Bush would sign legislation to ban Internet gambling on Friday the 13th.

Bush did not say one word about online betting during a 10-minute ceremony Friday at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building where he signed a bill to increase security at the nation's ports.

But standing among the seven lawmakers who attended the ceremony was Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who attached the Internet gambling ban to the port security bill.

Under the new law, credit cards, checks and other bank instruments can no longer be used to pay for Internet bets.

Although Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, is credited as the primary author of the ban, Frist and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., were the senators who pushed the hardest to successfully complete a decadelong effort to make it law.

Frist was the only lawmaker to follow Bush out of the room after the signing ceremony, and he did not appear at a news conference outside the White House after the signing.

Frist spokeswoman Carolyn Weyforth criticized opponents of the Internet gambling ban who charge the majority leader prioritized the legislation to gain the endorsement of Leach for the 2008 presidential caucuses in Iowa.

Leach chief of staff Gregory Wierzynski has denied there was even a discussion of such a deal.

"I think that those people are looking at politics instead of looking at the fact that Internet gambling is illegal," Weyforth said. "This bill puts a mechanism in place to enforce existing laws that already made online gambling illegal."

Radley Balko, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, accused Republican leaders who advanced the ban of being dishonest.

"Early on, they said this was lobbying reform and an anti-Jack Abramoff bill," said Balko, referring to the disgraced lobbyist who has been convicted of bribing members of Congress.

"Actually, this bill is very close to what he wanted because it includes an exemption for state lotteries," Balko said.

Internet poker players are likely to be surprised when they turn on their computers today and discover their favorite poker Web site is no longer available, Balko said.

"Internet gambling is a $12 billion industry and it is not going away, but this ban is going to put a dent in it, and it's going to make it easier for shadier Web sites to prey on minors," Balko said.

Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association, agreed and said he was not surprised Bush did not mention the Internet gambling ban during the signing ceremony.

"It had nothing to do with port security," Fahrenkopf said.

Rules for online gambling tightened is republished from