Legalize online gambling in U.S.

Mon, 08 Feb 2010 09:44
Backed by the online poker industry, U.S. legislators are gearing up for a big push to legalize Internet gambling before the end of a six-month reprieve, according to a report in the Washington Post. After Sen. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) successfully fought for the six-month period to prepare a proposal to regulate the booming industry, which would provide a windfall profit to the federal government, lobbyists backed by the $16 billion a year industry are working to push for legalization. "I think there's a growing realization in Washington that prohibition probably isn't going to work, just like prohibitions throughout history have not worked," said John Pappas, the poker group's executive director. "There needs to be a more common-sense approach, because it's not going away." But the effort faces opposition on numerous fronts, from social conservatives to professional sports leagues. A law banning online gambling was passed by a Republican Congress in 2006 (although the law has yet to be strictly enforced) and the NFL says legalization would encourage criminal activity. But a Democratic power swing and a prolonged recession may to be changing minds on the issue. The Obama Adminstration issued a six-month stay for online gambling in December so ways to create revenue could be explored. Estimates say a 2 percent tax would net $42 billion over a 10-year period. Pro-gambling groups are putting their money where their mouths are to the tune of $4 million over the past year to put together a political alliance in Washington. The groups' combned members total 1.2 million people, they say, and they have sent out 300,000 letters and e-mails to Congressmen. Still, opposition groups are numerous and they also plan to lobby Congress to keep Internet gambling from becoming legal. Focus on the Family Action, a conservative group that strongly opposed to all forms of gambling, argue that legalization is the start of a hostile takeover by the gambling industry. "This would go outside the walls of a brick-and-mortar casino, outside the walls of a convenience store lottery,'' said Chad Hillis, a gambling researcher for Focus on the Family Action, "and into the living rooms and homes of all Americans.'' Barney Frank, who has collected more than $100,000 from gambling proponents since 2007, has several allies in his fight to legalize gambling, some from across the aisle in the Republican Party. Rick Muny, a die-hard conservative and an avid online poker player, believes his party should look at the logic. 'There's a part of the party that always believes this isn't something people should do," Muny said. "But I think it behooves the party to be a little more broad-minded on this issue." Have fun gambling online!!

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