Berkley offers bill on study of Web wagers

Las Vegas Gaming Wire

WASHINGTON, DC — In another effort to roll back an Internet gambling ban, Rep. Shelley Berkley on Thursday introduced a bill calling for a one-year study of online wagering by the National Academy of Sciences.

“One of the advantages of this legislation is that it doesn’t take a side,” she said. “It doesn’t say Internet gambling is good or bad. It says ‘Let’s study the issue.’ ”

But Berkley, D-Nev., acknowledged she wants to repeal the Internet gambling ban approved last year by Congress.

“It’s very difficult to unring a bell once it has rung in Washington,” Berkley said. “But the ban was sneaked onto a port security bill, and the people who voted for it, including myself, were not contemplating a ban on Internet gambling.”

The measure was passed and signed into law in October.

Berkley’s bill comes one week after Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., proposed legislation to repeal the Internet gambling ban and require the Department of Treasury to regulate the $13 billion online wagering industry. Berkely’s approach differs radically from Frank’s. Instead of taking a pro- or anti-gambling stance, Berkley’s legislation asks for objective recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences.

“(Congress) is going to be told by the Justice Department that there’s lots of money laundering out there and that organized crime is involved (in Internet gambling),” said Joseph Kelly, a professor of business law at Buffalo State. “Once you have a study that comes out and says ‘Internet gambling can be safely regulated to ensure the suitability and solvency of all licensees, and under aged people can be kept out, etc.,’ then I think there’s a good chance of legislation such as Barney Frank’s bill being taken very seriously.”

Kelly also believes that when the U.K. begins issuing licenses this fall, the perceptions of many members of Congress may change.

“Great Britain’s regulatory system has the reputation of being maybe the toughest in the world,” Kelly said.

Berkley is a co-sponsor of Frank’s bill and Frank has said Berkley’s bill is “perfectly complementary” to his.

While Frank’s bill has 11 co-sponsors so far, Berkley claims to have 60 co-sponsors, including Frank and Nevada’s two other House members — Reps. Dean Heller and Jon Porter, both R-Nev.

Other Berkley co-sponsors include Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee which is likely to review Berkley’s bill, and Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a New Jersey Republican who represents casinos in Atlantic City.

Another bill, which would carve out an exemption from the ban for Internet poker players, is being drafted by Rep. Bob Wexler, D-Fla.

The National Research Council, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, would conduct the Internet gambling study, according to Berkley’s bill.

Among other things, Berkley’s bill would:

* Assess the impact of the ban approved last year.

* Examine technological methods used by other countries which license and regulate Internet gambling.

* Analyze recent rulings on Internet gambling by the World Trade Organization.

Porter, who introduced a bill last year calling for an 18-month study of Internet gambling by a federal commission, said Berkley’s bill is more specific.

“I would say this (Berkley’s) bill has a better chance of passing because this time there will be more discussion and debate,” Porter said.

Casino City reporter Aaron Todd contributed to this article.

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