Meet Barney Frank - Gambling EnthusiastPublished July 21, 2008 by OCR Editor
Barney Frank is the Democratic congressman from Newton, Massachusetts. He is not a gambler and says he's never played a slot machine, been inside a casino or gambled online. So why is he championing gambling?
Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has proposed legislation that would legalize online gambling, a reversal of US law which outlawed the industry.
In 2006, President Bush signed a law that bars banks and credit card companies from accepting payments to online gambling websites, making it virtually impossible to place bets. Online lotteries, fantasy sports and horse racing were excepted from this ban and they are all well and thriving.
There is another ban on online gambling - a 47 year old federal law prohibits using telephone lines to place bets, which the US Department of Justice takes to mean online gambling.
Prior to the ban, Internet gambling in the United States was estimated to be a $5.9 billion industry, with about 8 million Americans wagering, according to a study done in 2005. The ban effectively put and end to online gambling in the US, driving the companies to off-shore locations such as Antigua, Barbados and Gibraltar and causing a few to close down their businesses.
American online gamblers were stunned at the sudden end to their entertainment and gambling pastime.
Now Frank has become a local gambling hero. Websites aimed at online gamblers have started posting videos of Frank from C-SPAN. Recent donors to his campaign account include a pit boss at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and a professional player named Chris Moneymaker.
In October, 10 of the country's top professional poker players held a fund-raiser in Washington for Frank. They included Annie Duke ("The Duchess of Poker"), Howard Lederer ("The Professor"), and Andy Bloch ("The Rock").
Frank, who also favors casino development in Massachusetts, said in an interview that his stance on gambling is rooted in his views about the proper limits on government intervention in people's personal decisions. "If it affects me, mind your own business. If affects others, let the government get involved," he said.
We will watch with keen interest to see how this game plays out.