Utah politician announces opposition to anti-Internet gambling bills

Utah Rep. Chris Cannon says he would oppose any anti-Internet gambling bills aimed at banning online gaming because of fears it could lead to the legalization of some online wagering in Utah, one of the only two states in the U.S. where all forms of gambling are illegal. (The other state is Hawaii). Cannon, a long time opponent of banning Internet wagering, believes newly proposed anti-Internet gambling legislation (H.R. 4411 and H.R. 4777) give exception to horse betting.

"While I am an ardent opponent of gambling, one of the things I don't want to see is an opportunity for gambling because we pre-empt state law," Cannon said. "I don't want Utah to get bombarded with gambling if it becomes legal."

Cannon's motives are being called into question by critics who believe he may be influenced by campaign donors affiliated with the gambling industry. According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, Cannon has accepted "more than $30,000 in campaign contributions from groups, lobbyists and Indian tribes with gambling interests" or who oppose the gambling ban.

The Salt Lake City Tribune said, "Despite repeatedly calling gambling a "pernicious vice," and "abhorrent," Cannon has opposed the Internet gambling ban each time it has been offered. Several times he has tried to amend the bill to take out the horse racing language, although backers of the legislation said Cannon's change would cost the bill the support it needs to pass."

In addition, Cannon's former chief of staff, David Safavian, was a lobbyist for the online gambling industry before joining the Utah Congressman's staff, and is currently being charged with misleading investigators involved in the Jack Abramoff case.

Safavian was being questioned in connection to a trip he took to Scotland with Abramoff while he was employed by the General Services Administration (following his service in Cannon's office).

In addition to Safavian, Cannon has hired three other employees previously registered as lobbyists for the gambling industry.

Please see H.R. 4411 and H.R. 4777 for details on the recently proposed anti-Internet gambling legislation, and Senate Locked In Debate Over H.R. 4777 for the status of H.R. 4777.

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