Jenny Woo Talks To Barney Frank: Online Gambling Not Bad for Economy

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Jenny Woo
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Online Gambling

As one of the key allies for the online gambling industry, Democratic Congressman Barney Frank has been working diligently to have the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) repealed.  As  chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Barney Frank oversees housing and banking industries.  He has been especially vocal in recent weeks working hard to help those who are facing foreclosure on their homes and voting on behalf of a $700 billion bailout for the banking sector.'s own Senior correspondent Jenny Woo sat down with Barney Frank to discuss his stance on Internet gambling and what he believes will be the future for the industry.

JENNY:  What was it like teaming up with one of the most conservative Republicans, Ron Paul (Texas Congressman) to co-sponsor an online gambling bill?

CONGRESSMAN FRANK:  He's a libertarian and he's actually one of the honest ones who really want to help low income people and when it comes to interfering with peoples freedoms.  Ron and I worked together on legalizing marijuana and on opposing some restrictions on free speech.  I refer to him as being a very good ally; he's a very non-hypercritical conservative.

JENNY:  Why are you so adamant about ensuring that online gambling becomes legalized?

CONGRESSMAN FRANK:  I think it was a terrible mistake that the war of human activity should be divided into two groups, things that the government allows because it approves of them and things that the government prohibits.  The point is that it's not up to the government to find whether something is a good thing or a bad thing, it's up to the government to decide whether it would hurt somebody.  It's a gratuitous interference with adults.  The House responds, according to the bill, it doesn't add into the gross domestic product, that's a terribly authoritarian idea that we shouldn't allow people to do things if it doesn't go with the gross domestic product. 

People would say to me, "do you want to encourage people to gamble", again that's a terrible notion.  The idea that the world should be divided in things the government prohibits and things that the government encourages.  The world ought to be filled with a government that let's people do on their own.

JENNY:  On that same note, why is it that there are those who are so adamant about ensuring the activity remains illegal?

CONGRESSMAN FRANK:  Well some have a religious view about it, which puzzled me because the problem is - there's something in the Bible that  says gambling is a terrible thing except Bingo?  I just don't understand some of my liberal friends, who should know better, (but) are opposed to it (online gambling).  And I don't understand why.  Generally my liberal friends have been able to read what they want and there's something cultural that leads them to be defensive.  I can't understand what rational arguments that they make against it, but that's where they are.

JENNY:  You got H.R. 2046 passed through House Committee.  Obviously the year is about to end and we have a new administration coming in, what is the process to get your bill passed?

Fast Facts: What is H.R. 2046? To amend title 31, United States Code, to provide for the licensing of Internet gambling facilities by the Director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and for other purposes.

CONGRESSMAN FRANK:  The problem that we have now is that after the House Committee passed the bill this administration sort of panders.  The Treasury Department tries to rush through these regulations.  I'm very concerned by that.  We got word that they're trying to get this approved in this administration.  So prospects for doing this all depends on whether or not they sneak this one through.

JENNY:  Do the odds increase with an Obama administration?

CONGRESSMAN FRANK:  Yes, that would be much better with more Democrats.  Much more support.  I also think with the Obama administration you wouldn't see these bad regulations.  But what the Bush people try to do is to get this one done very hastily and with little preparation so it's in place when the Obama administration takes over.  But clearly we have more support opposing (these attempts to stop regulation) with more Democrats in Congress.  I wish it weren't an issue but the Republicans have made it one.

Did You Know?  Just days before the Republican Convention, that party dropped online gambling prohibition from its platform.  But the elation among online gambling enthusiasts was short lived.  The Republican party ensured an amendment was added to make online gambling prohibition part of that platform once again.  But to be certain, Ron Paul is not the only Republican Congressman opposed to Internet gaming prohibition.  It is after all a former Republican Senator who is now chairperson of the powerful Poker Players Alliance.

JENNY:  We know that Senator Jon Kyl was one of the co-authors of the UIGEA; do you see him railroading any attempt to get the bill passed through the Senate?

CONGRESSMAN FRANK:  They don't have to pass the bill; the bill has already been signed into law.  What I'm worried about is that the bill calls for regulations by the Treasury Department.  That's what we tried to stop.

JENNY:  We've often said you are one of the hardest working Congressman between this and taking center stage with the economy.  With the economic situation deteriorating do you think the online gambling initiative may have to take a back seat for a year?  Or, on the other side of the spectrum, can your bill be passed based on the premise that this is a multi-billion dollar industry that can actually help to fuel the US economy?

CONGRESSMAN FRANK:  No, I think it helps.  I think if we do this right we should make online gaming legal and subject it to a reasonable taxation like anything else.  This does not conflict to our effort to stimulate the economy.  This isn't bad for the economy.

JENNY:  France and Italy both have taken a complete about face on the subject of Internet gambling.  Last year they were arresting executives of gaming firms, this year both countries have begun to embrace the industry.  What do you think has to happen before these opposing groups can be convinced online gambling can be a good thing here in America?

CONGRESSMAN FRANK:  I wish I knew.  If I had an easy answer I would have put it into effect.  The ones who are notably opposed will not change their minds.  The problem now is that the people who are losing out because of this ban need to get much better organized and each one of them needs to talk to his or her representative and senators.  Especially from the voters who say, "will you please mind your own business and stop interfering with my choices."

JENNY:  What are your plans for the future?  Barney Frank for President in 2016?

CONGRESSMAN FRANK:  Haha Oh no no.  I'll be older in 2016 then John McCain is today.  I am very happy with the chairmanship that I have with this committee, it gives me the chance to get a lot accomplished that I want to accomplish.  I expect to serve a few more years as chairman of this committee.

JENNY:  Thank you Congressman.


Jenny Woo, Senior Correspondent

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