Online Gambling Prohibition: Blame it on Abramoff

Written by:
Alejandro Botticelli
Published on:
Online Gambling

Uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff has long been noted as the individual who allowed online gambling to thrive unregulated, unlicensed and - for a few years - free from prosecution.  Whether the industry should thank him or not remains debatable since these days his associations are mostly frowned upon, and online gambling happened to be one such association. 

He and the lobbying firm that employed him, Greenberg Traurig, also did a significant amount of work on behalf of foreign-based gambling Web sites, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.  Greenberg Traurig still plays a meaningful role in representing the sector (The Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. 141 Online Gambling Domain Names comes to mind). 

Citing lobbying disclosure records, a GOP memo asserts that Internet gambling interests paid "Team Abramoff" nearly $5 million from 2001 to 2004, including clients such as the Interactive Gaming Council of Vancouver, which is helping to lead efforts to legalize online gambling in the United States. "While Jack himself is now imprisoned, many of his former associates continue to carry out Abramoff's plan to legalize Internet gambling in the United States," the GOP memo reads.

The Post article goes on to state that gambling proponents bristle at such attacks, and say the memo is full of misinformation that treats all Greenberg Traurig clients as if they were connected to Abramoff, who was fired by the firm.

The reality is that most of the industry heavy hitters represented by Greenberg Traurig up until recently were barely born during Abramoff's lobbying period.  Most of Abramoff's financial support is said to have come from now defunct BetOnSports and PartyGaming, which exited the US market around the same time Abramoff stopped lobbying. 

Keith Furlong, deputy director of the Interactive Gaming Council, validates this point, saying that his group "never retained Jack Abramoff in any capacity. We did retain others at his firm at the very end of his tenure there, and we continue to do so, but we have never had a relationship with him."

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) had planned on holding a hearing Friday to discuss proposed legislation that would legalize online poker, but those plans are now on hold for the moment. 

The GOP think tank was also angered by the Obama administration's delaying of implementation of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) that essentially holds banks responsible for policing online gambling money transactions, something they say they cannot do to begin with. 

Outspoken Republicans are not about to give up. 

From the Washington Post:

GOP lawmakers as well as conservative groups, began pushing back this week against the legalization effort. Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and other lawmakers have scheduled floor statements condemning the legislation, while GOP aides began circulating the Abramoff-related memo and other attacks.  Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee, said in a statement that he would continue to push for implementation of the 2006 law hardening the prohibition for online gaming. "Our children and families need this protection," Bachus said.

Alejandro Botticelli, Gambling911.com


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