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Don't fold on Internet gambling ban

A 2006 US law has cut Web-based betting. If anything, the law needs to be toughened.

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Last year, the percentage of American college students who gamble online fell to 1.5 percent from 5.8 percent the year before. The reason? A 2006 federal law restricting Internet gambling. Now some in Congress who want to tax this type of addictive betting plan to roll back that progress.

Rep. Barney Frank (D) of Massachusetts is expected to hold congressional hearings next month to explore overturning the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and replace it with legalized online betting, which in turn could generate taxes and fees to the tune of billions of dollars. His bill to legalize online gambling has so far found more than 40 cosponsors.

Not included in the cost of this revenue stream, of course, would be the social price paid from the suffering and financial ruin that online gaming inflicts on a minority of players who become addicted to gambling. And the privacy of Internet gambling provides a particular problem for this vulnerable group.

Last November, the National Association of Attorneys General voiced "grave concerns" over Mr. Frank's bill. Current law bars banks and credit-card companies from processing payments for online gambling, essentially shutting it down. The attorneys general said the result was that many Internet-based gambling operators had been driven out of the US market.

In 2006, Frank's party helped pass the current law. One hundred and fifteen House Democrats voted for it, while only 76 opposed it. "Internet gambling is a growing problem in the United States, particularly among young people and college students," Rep. Darlene Hooley (D) of Oregon said in a floor speech at the time. "It is known to destroy families, marriages, and entire lives." (In Frank's state of Massachusetts, the House of Representatives last week soundly defeated a plan to create state-run casinos.)


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