Frank and gaming

It's rare that a congressman retiring in far off Massachusetts -- more than 2,300 miles from Las Vegas -- could have major ramifications for Nevada. But that is indeed the case when it comes to Barney Frank.

The 16-term Democrat, a pugnacious and acerbic liberal who enjoyed getting in the faces of his opponents, announced this week that he will not seek re-election next year.

There is much not to like about Rep. Frank's politics -- as the chief congressional apologist for the misguided policies of quasi-federal mortgage brokers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, his fingerprints are all over the 2007 housing meltdown -- but few could match his devotion to principle and his commitment to his ideas.

One of those ideas is that adults should be free to gamble online if they so choose. To that end, Rep. Frank over the years has proposed numerous bills to legalize and regulate Internet poker and gaming -- bills that could generate billions in new revenue for Nevada gaming companies.

"This is allowing adult Americans to spend their own money as they wish on a form of recreation that they enjoy," Rep. Frank said of one such bill. "I cannot understand why it's the role of the federal government to prohibit them from doing so. ... The great mass of human activity is not the government's business."

If only Rep. Frank applied that same philosophy to an individual's financial and economic transactions.

But on this count, he's dead on -- and the refusal of Congress to reverse its Internet poker and gaming ban reveals volumes about Washington's inertia.

There are many other supporters of online poker and gaming combing the halls of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats. Let's hope -- with the help of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid -- they can move forward and get something done. But they'll now have to do so without one of their most prominent generals.