New York Times: Congress Rethinks Its Ban on Internet Gambling

Written by admin on July 30th, 2010

The NY Times reports on one of the groups profiled in ‘The Best Government Money Can Buy?”.

Story here: (NYT registration may be required)

Opponents, who only four years ago, when Congress was controlled by the Republicans, secured a law that banned the use of credit and debit cards to pay online casinos, said they were aghast. “People sometimes resort to drastic things when they are strapped for cash,” said Representative Robert W. Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia, who called the new proposals “unfathomable.”

Representative Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who leads the Financial Services Committee, has been the legislation’s champion.

“Some adults will spend their money foolishly, but it is not the purpose of the federal government to prevent them legally from doing it,” Mr. Frank said.

The committee’s top Republican, Representative Spencer Bachus of Alabama, noting the passage of far-reaching changes in financial regulation this month, said that “after all the talk last year about shutting down casinos on Wall Street,” he was incredulous that members would vote to “open casinos in every home and every bedroom and every dorm room, and on every iPhone, every BlackBerry, every laptop.”

Mr. Bachus said lobbyists had spent “tens of millions” to overturn the 2006 law. “They’ve had quite a bit of success in turning votes,” he said.

Supporters of legalization said fiscal considerations played a role in their thinking. “I was looking for the money,” Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington, said in an interview. He sponsored the companion measure to allow taxation of Internet gambling; he wants to dedicate the money to education.

Representative Brad Sherman, Democrat of California, said in an interview that the money was an attractive source of financing for other programs. “We will not pass an Internet gaming bill,” Mr. Sherman predicted. “We will pass a bill to do something very important, funded by Internet gaming.”

He added, “Forty-two billion dollars over 10 years has an effect.”

The legal status of online gambling has long been murky. The Justice Department asserts that the Wire Act of 1961 prohibits it, but prosecutors have largely left individual gamblers alone.

To crack down on the activity, a 2006 law — inserted at the last minute into an unrelated bill in one of Congress’s last actions before Democrats took control — banned financial institutions from transmitting payments to and from gambling operators.

In the same year, the authorities arrested David Carruthers, a British online-gambling executive, as he changed flights at a Texas airport. He was sentenced to 33 months in prison for racketeering. Last year, the authorities ordered four banks to freeze the accounts of online payment processors that owed money to some 27,000 people who had used offshore poker sites.

But the enforcement actions have barely put a dent in the industry, experts say. Gamblers have used online payment processors, phone-based deposits and prepaid credit cards to circumvent the ban. By some estimates, American online gambling exceeds $6 billion a year.

Today, any American with a broadband connection and a checking account can engage in any form of Internet gambling from any state,” Annie Duke, a professional poker player, testified in May on behalf of the Poker Players Alliance, which hired a former Republican senator from New York, Alfonse M. D’Amato, to lobby for the bill.


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