Online gambling opponent resigns

capital hill

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales officially resigned today after a standoff with Congress that questioned his honesty and competence.

Members of congress from both political parties had been demanding his departure because of the botched handling of FBI terror investigations and the firings of U.S. attorneys. Gonzales came increasingly under fire as questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee proceeded.

During one such session, Gonzales answered questions from Senator Jon Kyl, an online gambling opponent who gave the attorney general a chance to comment on that issue.

Gonzales reaffirmed his commitment to prosecuting those online gambling companies that are violating U.S. laws. He also expressed his opinion that online gambling is highly addictive and connected to organized crime.

Without facts or statistics to back up his claims, his statement was just an opinion, but it did help push forward Senator Kyl's own agenda against online gambling.

Most of the senators present at the hearing may not know much about online gambling despite it being one of Kyl's personal crusades. What they didn't hear is that according to a Harvard study that included more than 40,000 participants, a mere 0.4% of subjects were prone to develop gambling problems because of easy access to online gambling.

Also, many Internet gambling operations are run by publicly traded companies in the U.K. or are run and licensed by governments in countries such as Germany, Antigua and Barbuda, Costa Rica and others.

Despite those facts, Gonzales has played a role in recent cases brought against online gambling companies by the U.S. Department of Justice.

In May 2006, the DOJ unsealed a 12-count indictment against William Scott and Jessica Davis for money laundering in connection with their online gambling business, Worldwide Telesports Inc.

Since then, the U.S. government has taken on cases against BetonSports and some of its officials as well as NETeller, an e-wallet site that was processing online gambling transactions for U.S. customers, and its founders.

Gonzales's stance against online gambling has only earned him even more trouble. He was recently named in a lawsuit against the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act passed last year to even further restrict online gambling in the United States.

The lawsuit was filed by Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association, which believes the UIGEA goes against citizen's constitutional rights.

"The purpose of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act is to prevent Americans from engaging in their fundamental rights to conduct their lives in the manner they wish to live it - to be free from the government imposing public morality in the privacy of one's home," iMEGA's attorney said in a press release.

Instead, iMEGA hopes to encourage regulation and taxation of Internet gambling with its lawsuit rather than a ban on the industry.

Some Congressmen have already put forth legislation that could do just that. Rep. Barney Frank introduced H.R. 2046 earlier this year which proposes legalizing and putting in place a licensing system for online gambling in the United States.

Congressman Robert Wexler, from Florida, also introduced a bill that would create an exemption for poker in the current online gambling laws, allowing people to still play poker online. There is also a bill put forth by Rep. Shelley Berkley of Nevada asking for a study of online gambling to determine the stance the government should take on the issue.

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