Barney Frank begins online gambling battle

Congressman Barney Frank

Rep. Barney Frank held a press conference today introducing his bill to end the prohibition of online gambling. The bill, the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act of 2007 (IGREA), will be introduced in the House of Representatives today.

According to a press release from Frank's office, the bill will establish a federal regulatory and enforcement framework to license online gambling companies in order for them to serve U.S. customers.

In effect, this bill would reverse the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act passed last year that restricts online gambling in the nation.

"The existing legislation is an inappropriate interference on the personal freedom of Americans and this interference should be undone," said Frank.

Frank's bill includes provisions that licensing requirements would include protections against underage gambling, compulsive gambling, money laundering and fraud.

"Congressman Frank's bill is a common sense approach to Internet gambling," said Alfonse D'Amato, Poker Players Alliance chairman of the board and former U.S. Senator.

"Licensing and regulation will allow us to sort out the most responsible sites - those that are good corporate citizens - from those engaged in unscrupulous activities and practices."

In Frank's bill, the Director of the financial Crimes Enforcement Network would be given the authority to establish regulations and license Internet gambling operators including poker and casino Web sites.

The director would also have the authority to revoke or terminate the license of any operator who fails to comply with the provisions set out in the IGREA, with violators facing possible fines or imprisonment.

Online gambling operators who apply for a license would be subject to review of their financial condition, corporate structure, business structure, and criminal background checks. They will also have to agree to be subject to U.S. jurisdiction.

The companies that receive licensing will also have to agree not to accept any type of bet or wager that is initiated or terminated in a state or tribal land that prohibits that type of Internet gambling.

Betting will also be prohibited on any sports league that opted out of authorizing online gambling activities.

In his press release, Frank addressed concerns about whether it would be possible to enforce restrictions from individual states and tribal lands. He said:

"In using the Internet, a customer's IP address is broadcast to the operator, which can then be used to identify the state in which a customer resides with 99% level of accuracy.

"This information is also made available and compared to the customer's registration information. In the event the information differs, the transaction is not approved and the customer is prevented from engaging in Internet gambling."

Along with verifying that customers are physically located in a jurisdiction that allows the type of gambling they want to do, licensed operators will have to have safeguards to ensure customers are at least 18 or older.

"The age verification technology that exists today to keep kids off of poker sites was non-existent years ago," D'Amato said. "The time is now to license and regulate operators and allow U.S. poker sites to compete with off-shore ones."

The online gambling sites will also need to have procedures in place to combat fraud and money laundering and combat compulsive gambling.

The IGREA also addresses financial institutions' roles in the industry, giving them protection from liability for providing payment services to licensed Internet gambling operators.

"As opposed to driving the entertainment activities of millions of Americans underground, which the ban unintentionally does, Chairman Frank's legislation will add greater visibility to this area and better address social and financial concerns," said Michael Bolcerek, PPA president.

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