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Tony Batt

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Lobby Group Calls for Online Gambling Study

28 Apr 2006

By Tony Batt

WASHINGTON, DC -- The board of directors for the casino industry's top lobbying group agreed unanimously this week to call for a one-year study of Internet gambling by a federal commission.

The action Wednesday by the American Gaming Association in Las Vegas is likely to hinder efforts in Congress to ban Internet gambling.

Association President Frank Fahrenkopf said his organization remains neutral on legislation to prohibit online wagering.

But without the support of casinos, measures by Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.; Jim Leach, R-Iowa; and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.; to outlaw Internet gambling face an uphill struggle.

Fahrenkopf estimated there will be between $12 billion and $15 billion bet on the Internet this year, and 60 percent will come from U.S. citizens.

"Something has got to be done about this, and we need to know if technology exists that can protect young people, pathological gamblers and prevent money laundering," Fahrenkopf said. "We realize that a commission may conclude that Internet gambling still cannot be properly regulated."

The association's support for a study mirrors the position of the Internet gambling industry.

"The Internet gambling industry will be delighted AGA has called for an objective study because this will show (Internet gambling) can be regulated," said Joseph Kelly, a State University of New York, Buffalo business law professor who has authored regulations for online gambling sites in Antigua.

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who has joined Kyl in trying to prohibit Web gambling, said he does not back a one-year study.

"We don't need another study to demonstrate what is already known to be fact. Instead, we need to enforce the laws already on the books that prohibit online gambling," Pryor said in a statement.

Kyl and Pryor are seeking to attach an Internet gambling ban as an amendment to legislation in the Senate.

Leach's bill, which would prevent the use of credit cards and checks to pay for online wagers, passed the House Financial Services Committee March 15 and may reach the floor by June.

"We never expected much support from AGA," said Gregory Wierzynski, chief of staff for Leach. "This issue has been debated in Congress for several years, and we certainly are not in favor of delaying the enactment of our bill."

The association's support for a study of Internet gambling echoes a 2003 bill by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. Co-sponsors of the Conyers bill included Reps. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and Chris Cannon, R-Utah.

Berkley said she may seek to re-introduce the bill calling for an Internet gambling study.

"It occurs to me that the congressmen who introduce anti-Internet gambling legislation are opposed to gaming, period," Berkley said.

Cannon said Congress is likelier to vote on the Goodlatte and Leach bills before considering a measure to study Internet gambling.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., would not oppose a study but he still does not believe Internet gambling can be effectively regulated, spokeswoman Sharyn Stein said.

A call to Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., was not returned.

Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev., would support a study of Internet gambling, spokesman T. J. Crawford said.

Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., wants to review the association proposal, spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin said.

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