State Lawmakers to Tackle Federal I-gaming Laws

31 May 2007

The National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS), the only organization of U.S. state lawmakers convening on a regular basis to discuss gaming issues, has traditionally stood in opposition to Internet gambling, but it is open now to changing its position.

At its summer meeting next month in Las Vegas, Nev., NCLGS members will debate how the 2006 U.S. Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) and the subsequent efforts to license and regulate Internet gaming in the United States have and will impact individual states' abilities to regulate gaming on their own turf.

A panel discussion on June 9, titled Internet Gaming Ban & Safe Harbors: Who Wins? Who Loses?, will include Dan Walsh, lead lobbyist, Interactive Gaming Council; David Robertson, former chair, National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling; Michael Bolcerek, president, Poker Players Alliance; and William Ford, senior counsel, corporate secretary, Magna Entertainment Corp

NCLGS President and Florida Sen. Steven Geller (D-Hallandale) explained that while NCLGS' position has always been that states should have the freedom to regulate as they see fit, Internet gambling has gotten in the way of that.

NCLGS, however, feels the need to be educated on the matter, he said.

So, the purpose of the session is to open a dialogue among state legislators and gaming regulators who are likely feeling tentative about how to navigate through the new uncertain political climate.

"States need to be able to determine what kind of gambling is legal in their states and Internet gambling basically takes away that ability," Geller said. "But we have agreed to reevaluate our position because that position was adopted by the organization four or five years ago and obviously there have been huge technological changes. And allegedly there have been some changes that would allow some of the companies to prohibit Internet gambling in states that haven't specifically made it legal. And that would be a different position for us since we're not objecting in principle; we're objecting on the grounds that the states need to be able to decide whether they want it in their state or not."

The UIGEA effectively shut the Internet gambling industry out of the United States last fall by banning banks and credit card companies from processing Internet gambling transactions from within the United States. But the industry had reason to hope when, in April, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., introduced the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act, which proposes a licensing and regulation regime in the United States for domestic and offshore Internet gambling companies.

Geller, who acknowledged he knew very little about Frank's bill, is reserving his opinion on Frank's bill until after the meeting.

"We're going to have an update on Congressman Frank's bill," Geller said. "I'm not too familiar with his bill. I've read some of the articles, but I've been in the legislature for 17 years, so I know better than to follow what the newspapers say because they're usually wrong. We do have an employee in Washington that tracks all the federal legislation, so I'm expecting that he will be speaking to us at our state federal relations committee on Congressman Frank's bill."

That said, Geller explained that NCLGS is not particularly designed to take policy positions.

"In general we're information only, by which I mean we want to let our members know what the current state of the law is coming down the pike," Geller said. "Again, we do have an established position on Internet gambling and I think it's the only type of gambling we've taken any position on. And, depending on what we hear, we may reevaluate our position."

Related Links
National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) 2007 Summer Meeting

Emily Swoboda is the senior staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in St. Louis, Mo.