Fahrenkopf Still Opposed to I-Gaming

1 February 2002

A day after published media reports had Frank Fahrenkopf siding with Interactive gaming interests on Capitol Hill, the American Gaming Association chief remains adamant that the land-based lobbying group is still opposed, in principle, to online gaming.

Fahrenkopf met this week with Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virg., in Washington to discuss the congressman's pending bill, which seeks to prohibit online casinos and sports books.

In the meeting, Fahrenkopf reiterated to Goodlatte what the AGA told him in a letter it sent to his office back in November. He outlined his group's opposition to the Goodlatte bill because of what he referred to as a double standard. The current language of the bill would outlaw online casinos but still allow for betting on horse racing to be conducted on the Internet.

The AGA, according to Fahrenkopf, hasn't wavered in its opposition to online gaming. He said the reason for the association's opposition to the Goodlatte bill is that it doesn't treat all sectors of the gaming industry with the same standard.

To drive home his point, Fahrenkopf said it is a distinct possibility that the AGA could come out opposed to the Goodlatte bill, but support what is being touted as the Leach-Oxley bill.

Rep. James Leach, R-Iowa, proposed a bill in the House, before the holiday recess, which would make it illegal for Internet gaming operators to use instruments including credit cards, debit cards and electronic fund transfers from Americans.

Although he's opposed to the Goodlatte bill, Fahrenkopf said the AGA as a group will make the final decision. He expects a decision to be made within two weeks.

"At this point in time we have not made a final decision as to what we are going to do," he said. "I have always taken the position, with regard to any Internet bills, that two things had to be in them. Number one, they couldn't make something that is presently legal, illegal. And they couldn't treat one aspect, or one area of the gaming industry, different from the other."

With those standards in place Goodlatte's bill doesn’t pass the grade, hence Fahrenkopf's opposition to it.

"There is no question in my mind that the Goodlatte bill allows the horse racing industry to conduct Internet gaming activity while denying that to the dog racers, commercial casinos, Indians and everyone else," he said. "The board will have to make a decision whether that is acceptable or not."

Conversely, the language in the Leach-Oxley bill, according to Fahrenkopf, paints the entire online gaming industry with the same brush, a situation that could bring the AGA around to backing the bill.

"The key to the Leach bill is that it is directed at 'illegal Internet gambling,' and 'illegal' is the key word," he said. "As long as you are leaving that word in there, then what you are doing is hurting the illegal activity."

Fahrenkopf did take exception today to previous reports of his group, and others in the land-based gaming industry, changing its position on Internet gaming. For years the AGA was in favor of prohibition bills, which were brought before Congress but never passed.

"Really there has only been a change of heart by one person," he said. The reference was to MGM Mirage Chairman Terry Lanni whose company has been awarded a license to operate an online casino in the Isle of Man but is waiting for governmental approval in the U.S. before it launches a site.

Fahrenkopf said the only way the AGA will change its tune regarding Internet gaming and actively support a regulatory bill in the Congress would be for one of the nation's gaming regulatory authorities to take the initiative to set workable standards and practices in place.

"Not until the Nevada Gaming Control Board, or the New Jersey Gaming Commission, or the Mississippi Gaming Control Board, or all of them, say we can control, regulate and police this,'" he said. "That is the key."

Nobody knows where Kevin Smith came from. He simply showed up one day and started writing articles for IGN. We liked him, so we decided to keep him. We think you'll like him too. Kevin can be reached at kevin@igamingnews.com.