N.Y. reps voice support for IGREA

Rep. Steve Israel
Rep. Steve Israel along with Rep. Pete King voiced their opposition to an online gambling ban.

When Barney Frank introduced H.R. 2046, the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act, in the House of Representatives April 26, 2007, two of his initial co-signers were representatives Steve Israel and Pete King from New York.

The Democrat and a Republican, representing the Long Island area in New York, have now teamed up to voice their support of online gambling as well by publishing an editorial in today's New York Post.

The article, Web Gambling: Tax, Don't Ban, outlines the Congressmen's reasoning behind supporting Barney Frank's bill to legalize and regulate online gambling in the United States.

In their opinion, the Treasury Department is in charge of a number of jobs, including protecting the president, investigating counterfeit money and tracking terrorist financing. Now they have tracking illegal online gamblers to add to that.

"Frankly," the representatives say in their article, "federal law-enforcement officials have bigger fish to fry."

The ban is misdirected, in their opinion, and unenforceable since people will still probably gamble online anyway, just in an unprotected environment.

"And online gambling now generates $13 billion a year; under the ban, online gamblers won't send a portion of that cash in tax dollars to the Treasury - instead, it'll go to the scam artists and gray market entrepreneurs," Israel and King say.

While they agree serious issues such as problem gamblers and making sure children aren't gambling need to be addressed, Israel and King believe that regulating and taxing the industry will do far more for protecting people than a ban will.

"Thankfully, technology now allows companies to address these issues," say the two representatives in their article.

"In Britain, where Internet gambling is legal and regulated, technology checks ensure that gamblers are of age and are not problem gamblers; watch lists work to prevent money-laundering."

Barney Frank's IGREA will help create the same kind of system in the United States.

The issue isn't simply about what is best to help protect people from the Internet gambling industry, it's also about how much the government should be interfering in citizen's private lives.

"Technology aside, Web gambling isn't so different than the way Americans have relaxed and enjoyed the company of friends for decades," Israel and King say in the New York Post.

"Years ago, the Treasury's Secret Service agents used to help Harry Truman put poker games together in the White House. Now they'd be locking him up."

Online poker is just one part of the online gambling industry, though, and there are other parts that are facing some pretty stiff opposition as well.

At the end of July, Congressmen received a letter signed by executives from four major sports organizations - the NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB - voicing strong opposition to legalizing online gambling.

Their concern is the sports betting that could take place online that "is incompatible with preserving the integrity of American athletics."

Frank's bill does provide for sports organizations to opt out of permitting gambling on their sports, but the organizations believe that the bill still breaks "terrible new ground, because Congress would for the first time sanction sports betting."

In an MSNBC article, former Senator Alfonse D'Amato, who chairs the Poker Players Alliance, said the NFL's lobbying shows the organization believes Frank's bill is gaining support in Washington.

The sports organizations' lobbying could be a major issue that will prevent the bill from gaining support, though.

"I don't think the NFL can be defeated on this," D'Amato said in the article. "They aren't going to want anyone betting on their games unless they can control it."

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