19 November 2006

By Liz Benston
November 19, 2006

While the gaming industry is heralding the appointment of casino-friendly Democrats to key positions of power in Washington, experts warn that it could take many years before Congress will be willing to consider regulating online gambling.

“If it comes up again, they’re going to say, ‘We’ve already dealt with that issue,’ ” said David Stewart, a Washington attorney who advises the American Gaming Association. “They were exhausted by this latest effort.”

The American Gaming Association didn’t fight or support the Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act, a bill signed into law last month that further criminalizes Internet gambling – a legally suspect business conducted by non-U.S. companies. The association’s two largest members, Harrah’s Entertainment and MGM Mirage, want to legalize Internet gambling in this country, but other members have been lukewarm to the idea. The group expects to decide at a board meeting next month whether to push for legislation that would study legalizing Internet gambling. Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev., introduced such a bill in the last session of Congress that gained support from more than 40 co-sponsors.

Among a slew of Democrats perceived as friendly to the industry is Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., an outspoken liberal who will head the Financial Services Committee and who voted against the Internet gambling prohibition bill that originated in his committee under its chairman, Jim Leach, R-Iowa.

Even if more libertarian minds prevail in the online gambling debate, Stewart says it could take at least a decade for Congress to legalize Internet betting – dooming a $12 billion industry that has earned a place in mainstream culture to black-sheep status.

“They don’t have the appetite for it,” he said of members’ desire to pursue a debate.


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