Steve Cohen co-sponsors IGREA

capital hill

Tennessee Representative Steve Cohen has stepped up to the plate to sign on as a co-sponsor of Barney Frank's Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act this week, bringing the total number of co-sponsors on the bill up to 39.

Cohen, a Democrat, is in his first term in the House of Representatives, but it's not his first time standing up for gambling.

According to his biography, one of his accomplishments during his 24 years in the Tennessee State Senate was helping establish the state lottery in Tennessee. He is known as the "father of the Tennessee Lottery" for his nearly 20 years of efforts on the issue.

Through that work, Cohen has seen firsthand how legalized gambling can help people. Since the inception in 2004 of the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship, funded by state lottery sales, more than $800 million has gone to students continuing their education at the college level.

Surveys have shown that legalizing and regulation online gambling in the United States could also provide billions of dollars in tax revenues that could be used similarly to help communities across the nation.

Frank's IGREA seeks to do just that by setting up a system to license and regulate the online gambling industry in the United States, thereby overturning what is essentially a ban on the industry created by last year's Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. published an article today written by Joe Saumarez-Smith, Sports Gaming CEO, which outlines many of the arguments against the UIGEA and banning online gambling, reinforcing Frank and other IGREA supporters' stance on the issue.

Among his key criticisms, Saumarez-Smith pointed out that a year after the UIGEA was passed into law, people are still gambling online whether it is illegal or not in the United States. The only difference is that they aren't protected if they're playing at a disreputable site.

"The biggest difference now is that the companies offering online gambling are privately held and operate out of countries where it is impossible to know who controls them; if you had a huge win, then the risk of not being paid is probably much higher," Saumarez-Smith says in the article.

He also points out that the ban, the way it currently is set, is ineffective. The UIGEA attempts to cut off people depositing money into online gambling sites to play poker, make bets or play casino games, but it doesn't specifically say that it is illegal for them to play those games online.

Most people don't even realize there has been a change, so the change in how many U.S. residents have stopped gambling is nearly insignificant, less than half a percentage point.

The law isn't stopping people from gambling online, and sources tell Saumarez-Smith it isn't preventing gambling addictions either. It has reduced the number of underage gamblers, but prohibition isn't keeping people from becoming addicts.

Online gambling also has the World Trade Organization on its side, which has ruled that the U.S. online gambling laws violate trade agreements the nation made when it joined the WTO.

"Laws that are either widely disobeyed or unworkable are bad laws. A year after its passing, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act is both disobeyed and unworkable," Saumarez-Smith wrote. "The sooner it's scrapped, the better."

With another supporter added to the IGREA, perhaps a new law overturning the ban is one step closer.

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