Frank Expects to Introduce Bill Next Week

28 April 2009
Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said he intends to introduce a bill next week that would legalize and regulate Internet gambling in the United States.

"We'll be introducing it next week and I plan to move on it," Reuters reported Mr. Frank as saying during a financial regulation summit in Washington, D.C., Tuesday.

The new bill -- details of which have yet to leak -- is expected to be similar in scope to April 2007's Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act.

News flow regarding the bill's introduction began in February in London's Financial Times. Most recently, Mr. Frank, a Democrat, told The Hill that the bill would be introduced by the end of April.

"There have been a number of other issues that have been competing for his time," Steven W. Adamske, a spokesman for Mr. Frank, told IGamingNews Tuesday when asked about the delay. "Next week would certainly be our hope."

Analysts are hopeful that the Democratic-controlled Congress will help grease the rails for Mr. Frank's bill, after 2007's regulation and enforcement act garnered only 48 co-sponsors.

IGamingNews' recent report on fourth-quarter lobbying spend indicates that European gaming interests, most notably via the Interactive Gaming Council, will be supporting the bill, while the sports leagues and social conservative groups will be opposing it.

Opinions vary on how Mr. Frank's bill will fare.

Macquarie Research of New York suggested in an April 2 note that the bill faces a "significant uphill battle."

“Given the more pressing economic concerns of industries that currently employ considerably more potential voters than online gaming ever will, we think the odds are very slim that online gaming will be supported on Capitol Hill,” analysts with Macquarie said.

By contrast, the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative, a backer of Mr. Frank's bill that doesn't lobby Congress, told IGamingNews last month that despite the existence of prohibitive federal legislation, Americans continue to gamble online -- in increasing numbers -- with unlicensed, unregulated operators.

“So there's still the need for and keen interest in creating a regulated and secure marketplace with protections for American consumers,” said Jeffrey Sandman, the initiative's spokesman.

There has been speculation in recent weeks that should Mr. Frank's legislation pass, some of the country's financially healthy land-based operators and suppliers would be interested in acquiring European online gambling businesses.

Both Macquarie and Roth Capital Partners of California have suggested International Game Technology -- given its $89 million acquisition of WagerWorks in 2005, as well as the English mobile gambling firm Million-2-1 in 2008 -- could be in the market.

Harrah's Entertainment Inc., the casino giant, is also rumored to have appointed Mitchell A. Garber, the former chief executive of PartyGaming, as head of an online spinoff. The company declined comment when contacted by IGamingNews two weeks ago.

Chris Krafcik is the editor of IGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Mo.