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Congressman Pushes To Let Americans Gamble Online

Barney Frank's bill would overturn prohibition on Internet betting.

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank will introduce legislation Wednesday to allow Americans to gamble online.

Frank, who chairs the House Committee on Financial Services, said Tuesday that he would unveil a plan to allow licensed gambling operators to accept bets from people in the United States. Industry insiders said the bill is likely to include provisions to deter compulsive and underage gambling, money laundering, fraud, and identity theft.

The Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative, a group that advocates the legalization of online gambling, estimates that millions of Americans wager more than $100 billion a year through offshore gambling sites, despite the fact that it's illegal under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.

Frank, D-Mass., introduced a bill to legalize online gambling in 2007 but the measure stalled. Opponents argue that children and adults would be at risk of compulsive gambling, fraud, and identity theft if allowed to gamble online.

Chambers of commerce and banking groups have complained about the gambling ban, saying it burdens the financial services sector by requiring banks to identify and block illegal gambling transactions.

The Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative estimates that the United States could collect up to $62.7 billion in tax revenue over the next 10 years if online gambling were legal. The group, other proponents, and Frank argue that people will gamble on the Internet whether or not it's legal, and the government can better control activity and prevent related problems by legalizing online gambling.

A spokesman for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative praised Frank for his plans to unveil the new bill. "Despite the current prohibition, millions of Americans wager more than $100 billion annually with offshore Internet gambling operators," he said in a statement released Tuesday.

"Rather than tell Americans what they can and cannot do online in the privacy of their homes, chairman Frank's approach to regulate Internet gambling would protect consumers and allow the U.S. to generate billions in new revenue to fund critical government programs," the spokesman said.

InformationWeek will be highlighting innovative government IT organizations in an upcoming issue. Nominate your agency by submitting an essay on your most innovative IT initiative completed in the last year. Find out more, and nominate your organization -- deadline extended to May 15.

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