Frank Reintroduces Watered-Down Bill

12 September 2008

Once again, Barney Frank, chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services, is attempting to clarify the United States government's definition of unlawful Internet gambling.

Yesterday, the Massachusetts Democrat introduced a new version of the Payments System Protection Act. The bill, HR 6870, calls for the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Board, in consultation with the attorney general, to devise a formal process for defining what types of Internet gambling are unlawful -- this in an attempt to spur further clarification of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, or UIGEA.

This new bill is similar to another bill Mr. Frank introduced earlier in the year, which was voted down by a narrow margin in June.

“This obviously has been a goal of Mr. Frank’s for a very long time,” Steven W. Adamske, a spokesperson for Mr. Frank, told IGamingNews by telephone today. “We think we have an unworkable law -- a law that’s very, very difficult to implement. We came up a little bit short a couple months ago. We think we have fixed some of those issues, and we’re going to try again.”

The financial services committee has scheduled a full committee markup on the bill for Tuesday, Sept. 16, and Mr. Adamske said it was not unusual for a bill to move forward this quickly.

“We are also coming to the last few days of the session here, so we want to make sure we have completed our work as best we can,” he added.

To elaborate further on the proposed legislation, IGN spoke with Dan Walsh, director of governmental affairs at Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm Greenberg Traurig.

“The new bill basically allows the proposed rule to take effect immediately with respect to sports betting, which is the one form of Internet gaming for which there is settled federal case law,” Mr. Walsh said by telephone. “There’s not a lot of room to be confused about the legality. Banks have a case to make that they don’t know what they should and shouldn’t block with respect to certain other things.”

Mr. Walsh said that since sports betting is illegal in a bricks-and-mortar world and that the federal Wire Wager Act of 1961 can be applied clearly, the proposed rule could take effect in respect to sports betting -- but on other instances an administrative law judge would need to clarify to what else it should apply.

“It’s a reasonably straightforward bill,” Mr. Walsh added. “I think the hope would be for at least those Republicans, though they voted No last time, and as much as this is sort of a watered-down version of what they asked for before, that they would be in a position to vote Yes. I think there’s a hope that this could clear the committee.”

Jeanette Kozlowski is a staff writer for IGamingNews and manager of Clarion Gaming's Gaming Industry Media portal. She lives in Kirkwood, Mo.