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Congress Moves To Legalize Online Gambling

The legislation would replace the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which has proven to be unenforceable.

A campaign to authorize online gambling has cleared an important hurdle with the approval by a Congressional Committee of legislation that would permit U.S. residents to gamble over the Internet.

Spearheaded by Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Barney Frank, the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative was approved 41 to 22 in a bipartisan vote Wednesday.

The legislation would replace the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which sought to regulate and outlaw online gambling by U.S. residents. The law has proven to be unenforceable and while lawmakers aren't exactly embracing gambling, they like the idea that the new proposed legislation would produce badly needed tax dollars. The U.S. Treasury would license gambling companies.

Frank, chairman of the Financial Services Committee, has championed the new legislation and says he isn't a gambler himself. He simply believes people should be able to do as they wish with their money, as long as no laws are broken.

"Some adults will spend their money foolishly, but it is not the purpose of the federal government to prevent them legally from doing it," he said about the new legislation.

Wednesday's congressional vote was immediately hailed by gambling interests. In a statement, Michael Waxman, spokesperson for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative, said: "With Congress bitterly divided and only a handful of bi-partisan bills coming out of the Financial Services Committee, we're pleased Committee members from both sides of the aisle were able to come together to advance this important legislation."

There is near universal agreement that the earlier legislation failed because, among other problems, it was virtually impossible to enforce. Americans continued to gamble on offshore sites and sometimes they weren't paid what they were owed when they won. Legalization of online gambling would protect gamblers in those situations.

A companion measure to Frank's legislation would authorize taxation of online gambling by the U.S. and state governments. The tax legislation was submitted by Representative Jim McDermott, a Washington Democrat.

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