arney Frank, Chairman of the US House Financial Services Committee, told The Hill congressional newspaper last week that the bill, Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act (H.R. 2046), would be a standalone bill despite the fact that Republicans added the legislation on the back of a vital port security bill in the 109th Congress.
Commentators have suggested that the decision to introduce the bill as a standalone bill would make it even more difficult for it to pass through Congress. Congressman Frank said however that it would be "inappropriate" to follow the Republicans' path. “That is not my intention. It would be a mistake. I want to do this with hearings, discussions and votes,” Frank told The Hill.
With Congress not returning from the Easter break until the week commencing April 20th, Congressman Frank will only have a limited time in which to introduce his bill. “After the break, definitely in April,” Frank said.
Jeffrey Sandman, spokesman for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative which backs Frank’s bill, told The Hill: “We welcome a standalone bill, which would allow for a thorough discussion of all the issues relating to regulations and consumer protections.
“The excitement over Congressman Frank’s bill is that it would create an environment that would protect American consumers and include safeguards against underage gambling and compulsive gambling, which don’t exist right now,” said Sandman.
The 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which made it illegal for financial institutions to process online gambling transactions, came into force on January 19th 2009, one day before the inauguration of Barack Obama as President. Compliance with the rule by payment system providers will be required by December 1st 2009.
Congressman Frank has previously said that the prospects for his bill, discussed in the last session of Congress but yet to be voted on, had increased as public opinion demands the right to gamble online. Frank’s case will further be bolstered by the revenue generating potential of online gaming, with tax revenues from a regulated industry estimated by some to potentially amount to more that us$ 50 billion over the next ten years.
Yesterday online gaming operator PartyGaming agreed to pay the US Attorney's Office us$ 105 million as part of a Non-Prosecution Agreement relating to the company's activities in the U.S prior to the passage of the UIGEA. Should Congressman Frank's bill be successful, PartyGaming is expected to be amongst the first companies to benefit from the opening of the most lucrative gambling market in the world.