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Arnold M. Knightly

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Foe of gambling welcomes hearings on new legislation

11 Jun 2007

By Arnold M. Knightly

Gambling opponent the Rev. Tom Grey on Friday welcomed congressional hearings on Internet betting, saying bills being proposed to lift federal restrictions on online gambling will force presidential candidates to take a stand on the issue.

With House hearings being conducted in Washington, D.C., about regulating Internet gambling, advocates from both sides of the issue debated Friday at the Rio during the annual National Council of Legislators from Gaming States conference.

"This is the definitive battle on how far we are willing to go on the gambling binge America is on," Grey, field director of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, said during a debate Friday.

"Do we want wide-open, hard-core gambling?" he added, saying that bills by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and other legislators that would lift a ban on nonsports online betting are "timely."

Further, Grey said the bills will force political candidates, including the Democrats and Republicans running for president, to take a public position on the issue.

Grey said the congressional hearings are "driven by self-interest" of organizations such as Poker Players Alliance, which claims 550,000 members, who are looking to profit from the online gambling industry.

Michael Bolcerek, president of Poker Players Alliance, countered Friday that legalizing Internet gambling is "good public policy" that would allow state and federal governments to regulate the industry.

Bolcerek, who has held executive positions in technology companies including Oracle Corp. and a homeland security technology startup, said Internet technology is available to let regulators restrict minors from gambling online.

Other areas of concern include ensuring online gambling financial transactions are transparent and providing help to problem gamblers.

Council President Steven Geller said the organization now opposes Web gambling because of concerns about how tightly states would be able to regulate the industry within their borders.

"We believe states should be able to decide on their own what kinds of gambling are legal in their states," said Geller, who is also a state senator in Florida. "Internet gambling has taken away the ability of the states to make those decisions."

The convention, which runs through Sunday, is being attended by 190 members made up of state legislators, gaming regulators and law enforcement from around the country.

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