Online gambling to fund US health care reform?

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U.S. Senator Ron Wyden has an unusual proposal for funding health care reform.

Wyden introduced an amendment to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee Saturday that would see the government use online gambling revenues to help offset the costs of health care reform.

Specifically, the senator recommended implementation of the currently pending Internet Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act, a bill that would officially legalize online poker and support regulation in the industry, to offset the costs of health care reforms contained in the also-pending Healthy Future Act of 2009.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers analysis has shown that collecting taxes on regulated online gambling would allow the U.S. to capture up to over $62.7 billion over the next decade.

As the Senate Finance Committee considers the proposal, the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative (SSIGI) has been vocal in its support of Wyden's effort.

"We applaud Senator Wyden's proposal to collect and put to good use tens of billions in Internet gambling revenue that would otherwise be lost in the underground marketplace," said SSIGI spokesperson Michael Waxman.

"The Senate Finance Committee should approve the resolution, finally putting to an end a failed prohibition on Internet gambling that leaves Americans unprotected and unlicensed offshore operators as the only beneficiary in a thriving marketplace."

Rep. Barney Frank introduced the bill to tax and regulate online gambling in May this year. The bill would establish a framework to permit licensed gambling operators to accept wagers from individuals in the U.S.

The legislation includes a number of consumer protections including safeguards against compulsive and underage gambling, money laundering, fraud and identity theft.

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