Frank says online ban resistance growing

19 April 2007
By Tony Batt

WASHINGTON, DC -- Although there may not be much support in Congress for Internet gambling, Rep. Barney Frank says resistance is growing against a ban passed late last year.

"I think a lot of members of Congress voted for that (ban) without having given it a lot of attention," Frank said Wednesday. "And I think that there is growing opposition to it," he said. "I think that this may be a case where, after the fact of having voted for it, people don't like it and they reconsider."

Frank, the new chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said he plans to introduce a bill "probably next week, maybe the week after" against the Internet gambling ban.

Democrat Shelley Berkley and Republican Jon Porter, both of Nevada, also are planning to unveil legislation within the next two weeks that would call for a study of Internet gambling by the National Academy of Sciences.

After considering an 18-month study, the Nevadans are expected to propose a one-year study instead.

The Poker Players Alliance, represented by former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., also may seek legislation that would exempt online poker from the ban.

Frank said he may support the Nevadans' bill, but "I want to go beyond the study."

Although he said it would be "premature" to discuss details of his bill, Frank explained why he has described the Internet gambling ban as one of the "stupidest" ever passed.

"Because I like to tell the truth," he said. "It has no valid public purpose in my judgment. It intrudes in people's private lives.

"One argument for it ... was this activity adds nothing to the GDP (gross domestic product). That's a chilling principle; that if something doesn't add to the gross domestic product we can ban it. That's a kind of ... corporatism that is very troubling to me."

The ban prohibits the use of credit cards or other bank instruments to pay for sports bets and gambling online. Before the ban, Internet gambling had become a $12 billion industry with more than 2,300 Web sites.

Congress passed the ban after it was attached to a port security bill by then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. The vote was 409-2, and previous roll call votes in the House and Senate have shown overwhelming support for an Internet gambling ban.

Frank acknowledged Congress may not be ready to change the ban dramatically.

"But I know (lawmakers) are hearing from people who don't like it now. So I'd say the situation is very fluid," Frank said.

Throughout his career, Frank has been a persistent and often lonely voice against efforts to regulate gambling.

"In a number of areas, I am a libertarian," Frank said. "I think that John Stuart Mill's 'On Liberty' is a great statement, and I was just rereading it. I believe that people should be allowed to read and gamble and ride motorcycles and do a lot of things that other people might not want to let them do."

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