In an interview with the Las Vegas Review Journal, Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) stated that legislation calling for an independent study on Internet gambling is not necessary and that the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute around Internet gambling could result in significant economic penalties against the U.S., particularly those from the European Union.
Representatives Shelley Berkley (D-NV) recently introduced the Internet Gambling Study Act, which calls for the National Academy of Sciences to study a range of issues that involve Internet gaming legislation. Although Frank has signed on as a co-sponsor of the legislation, he believes that such a study would be ineffective. “What’s to study?” Frank stated. “Whether or not I should be able to make my own bet with my own money?”
Frank has introduced his own Internet gambling legislation, the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act, which would establish a framework to regulate Internet gambling in the U.S. and provide protections against underage and compulsive gambling, money laundering and fraud. An added benefit of the Frank legislation is that it would resolve a WTO trade agreement violation related to Internet gambling.
The WTO previously ruled, in response to a dispute filed by the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, that the U.S. unfairly prohibits foreign Internet gambling operators from accessing the U.S. market, while allowing domestic companies to legally accept online bets. “I know (the pressure) is going to increase,” commented Frank on the WTO trade dispute. “I don’t know where it ends, but they’re going to be asking for big bucks from us.”
When the United States refused to comply with the WTO ruling, the European Union (representing 27 member states), India, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Macao, and CARICOM (representing 15 Caribbean nations) joined Antigua and Barbuda in seeking compensation from the U.S. for economic injury resulting from this trade agreement violation. It is estimated that the U.S. could be required to pay penalties in excess of $100 billion to the European Union and other countries seeking trade compensation. Antigua and Barbuda on their own have requested the U.S. pay up to $3.4 billion in damages. “(Antigua and Barbuda do not have) a big enough economy to have an impact on us,” Frank said. “The European Union threatens us with much bigger negative consequences.”
“Congress previously held a hearing on Internet gambling, which clearly demonstrated that Internet gambling can successfully be regulated in the U.S. to protect consumers and ensure the integrity of financial transactions,” said Jeffrey Sandman, spokesman for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative. “It does not make sense to prohibit Internet gambling. Americans are continuing to find a way to gamble online. It is time for Congress to regulate and tax Internet gambling to ensure security controls are in place to protect consumers and capture billions in revenue that is needed for critical government programs. Moreover, it is critical that the U.S. act now to address its WTO trade violations to prevent paying billions in trade compensation.”