In February of 2009, Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) made it known that he intended to introduce a bill to repeal the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in March. However, that month came and went with no legislation on the books, though it would be fair to say that his role as Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee likely kept him focused on the banking crisis, budgetary concerns, and other highly volatile issues important to the American people. But with the poker industry being fairly self-absorbed, there were some quietly wondering if Frank had forgotten about us.
Alas, the issue of pro-gaming legislation is still in play. According to The Hill, a well-read policy publication covering the inner-workings of Capitol Hill, Frank intends to reintroduce his April 2007 legislation “soon.” More specifically, he said it would be “after the [Congressional] break, definitely in April.”
The reintroduction refers to H.R. 2046, the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act, which was introduced by Frank in April of 2007. With the intention of legalizing and licensing internet gambling facilities, the original bill picked up 48 sponsors but never passed committee. Using the same piece of legislation, one that assures most of the same sponsors and looks to add more this time around, Frank feels it is the best way to change the law and reverse the UIGEA.
The choice of Frank to introduce the bill as a standalone one, however, puts its chances of passing into question. Not only will it be far more susceptible to criticism from opponents due to its higher visibility, it will require more effort to push it through both houses of Congress. The alternative, however, was to add it to legislation that would be sure to pass, similar to the way the UIGEA was passed initially, and Frank expressed his unwillingness to do that. He called it an inappropriate manner to pass the bill and told The Hill reporter, “That is not my intention. It would be a mistake. I want to do this with hearings, discussions and votes.”
A standalone bill is supported by people on both sides of the issue. The Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative (SSIGI) spokesman Jeffrey Sandman commented, “We welcome a standalone bill, which would allow for a thorough discussion of all the issues relating to regulations and consumer protections.” And that sentiment was echoed by the Christian Coalition of America, represented by vice president of legislative affairs Jim Backlin, who opposes the proposed legislation but supports Frank’s methods. “I think it is good that Congressman Frank is not trying to attach it to a fast-track bill.”
With Congress returning after to work during the week of April 20, there will be little more than a week to introduce the legislation, per Frank’s wishes, but there is likely to be a solid effort to gain support for the responsible gaming bill.
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