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Congressman Seeks To Lift Online Gambling Ban

In introducing a bill to legalize online gambling, Rep. Frank said U.S. prohibitions remove consumer protections for Americans who continue to gamble online.

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank wants to legalize online gambling.

Just months after a law banning online gambling took effect, Rep. Frank, D-Mass., has introduced a bill that would allow the practice. The Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act was introduced Thursday.

Frank estimates that the global gaming market grossed $258 billion in 2005, with 5% of the revenue coming from online operations. He estimates that 47% of the gross global gambling yield came from North American residents.

Frank pointed out that every state allows some form of gambling. He said that U.S. Internet gambling prohibitions remove consumer protections for Americans who continue to gamble online.

A law passed in 2006 prohibits U.S. financial institutions from processing payments of any form for Internet gambling that is illegal under U.S. federal or state law. The legislation was inserted into an unrelated bill, which had widespread approval.

"The existing legislation is an inappropriate interference on the personal freedom of Americans and this interference should be undone," Frank said in a prepared statement.

The World Trade Organization has said the law violates international trade agreements.

Frank's bill would allow the U.S. Treasury Department to regulate and enforce licensing requirements for gaming companies that are allowed by individual states, Indian tribes, and sports leagues. His legislation states that licensing and regulatory schemes are needed to protect against underage, compulsive, and illegal gambling, as well as fraud. It also argues that licensed and regulated gambling would increase tax revenue and reduce tax avoidance.

The Financial Services Committee plans a hearing on the issue in June.

Representatives from Focus on the Family, which is among the groups opposing online gambling, said they don't believe there is enough support in Congress for Frank's legislation to pass.

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