Study of regulations slated for ban on Web gambling

WASHINGTON — A House panel plans next month to review regulations proposed by the Department of Treasury to enforce a 2006 ban against Internet gambling.

The hearing by the House Financial Services Committee could occur as early as April 2.

The draft rules, which were published Oct. 4, reportedly have drawn more than 200 comments from lawmakers and various interest groups.

Many of the comments question whether the regulations would be effective.

“The hearing is going to show — I want to show — that it’s not that the regulations weren’t done well. It’s that they can’t be done well given the inherent nature of the issue,” said Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

Frank, who has called the ban “one of the stupidest things I ever saw,” offered legislation last year to repeal it and require the Department of Treasury to regulate Internet gambling in the United States.

About 23 million people gambled on the Internet in 2005 on 2,500 Web sites. About 8 million of those gamblers were from the United States.

So far, Frank’s bill has 46 co-sponsors — 42 Democrats and four Republicans.

Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who attached the Internet gambling ban to a port security bill as Congress rushed to finish business in 2006, on Thursday repeatedly declined to answer questions about the ban or efforts to repeal it.

“I’m not going to talk about it. I’m going to talk about the issue today,” said Frist, who was in Washington to promote efforts to save children’s lives across the world.

After leaving the Senate at the end of 2006, Frist returned to his medical practice in Nashville.

Meanwhile, former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y., the chief lobbyist for the Poker Players Alliance, acknowledged Thursday he does not expect Congress to overturn the Internet gambling ban this year.

“It’s going to take a couple of years,” said D’Amato, noting the increased difficulty of passing legislation in a presidential election year.

Although he declined to disclose names, D’Amato said he is talking to Republican senators in hopes of finding one who will lead efforts in the Senate to exempt poker from the online wagering ban.

The legislation in the Senate would be similar to a bill proposed last year in the House by Rep. Bob Wexler, D-Fla.

Wexler’s bill has 21 co-sponsors — 17 Democrats and four Republicans.

A bill by Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., calling for a one-year study of Internet gambling by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences has 68 co-sponsors — 64 Democrats and four Republicans, including Reps. Jon Porter and Dean Heller, both R-Nev.

Rep. James McDermott, D-Wash., has proposed legislation to tax Internet gambling for up to $43 billion over 10 years.

McDermott’s bill, which is intended to complement Frank’s bill, has 21 co-sponsors — 17 Democrats and four Republicans.

Earlier this month, McDermott sought to strengthen his bill and the revised version has one co-sponsor, Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau reporter Tony Batt attbatt@stephens or (202) 783-1760.

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