Frank's Timing Odd, But I-Gaming Support Is a Go

4 February 2009
Though the timing appears to be odd, to say the least, Barney Frank told the Financial Times Wednesday that he plans to reintroduce a bill to license and regulate online gambling in the United States.

The United States has a new Democratic president, a Democratic majority in Congress and the hope for change. But it may be awhile before I-gaming regulation is a priority at the federal level.

A gambling lobbyist in Washington, D.C., who wished not to be named, confirmed to IGamingNews, in so many words, that a bill is being drafted at Mr. Frank's office.

"It's safe to say it's being drafted," the lobbyist said Wednesday.

The lobbyist said it will likely be similar to HR 2046 -- introduced in 2007 -- in that it will focus on licensing and regulating online gambling at the federal level.

However, the I-gaming industry should not hold its collective breath for an imminent introduction.

"He (Mr. Frank) has some other priorities too," the lobbyist added. "I think the commitment is definitely there. It's not his highest priority, but it's a priority, and we're certainly happy to have him as an ally."

Mr. Frank, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, outlined his legislative priorities in a press conference on Tuesday. Near the bottom of the list Mr. Frank said he hopes for repeal of anti-Internet-gambling regulations.

"I think for him it's less an I-gaming issue than a libertarian issue," Joseph Brennan Jr., chairman of the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gambling Association in Washington, told IGamingNews Wednesday. "He's said several times that adults should be able to spend their money as they see fit, within reason. For him, gambling falls within those reasonable standards."

Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law Wednesday held a hearing to address the possible reform of the practice of "midnight rulemaking", to which the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act rules fell victim in November 2008.

Internet gambling was raised by Representative Steven I. Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee, according to the lobbyist, who attended most of the hearing.

Mr. Cohen made reference to William B. Wichterman's involvement in the finalization of the rules and asked panel member Gary D. Bass, the executive director of OMB Watch, if that sort of conflict of interest should be a concern, the lobbyist said.

"Bass replied, predictably: 'Yes, it should,' " the lobbyist said.

Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and member of the House Judiciary Committee, on Jan. 6 introduced HR 34 -- the Midnight Rule Act -- which would prevent rules adopted within the last three months of the previous administration from going into effect.

Click here to read a blog by the editor on Mr. Frank's decision to publicize a new bill.

Emily Swoboda is the senior staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in St. Louis, Mo.