Lawmakers Step Up Fight Against Internet-Gambling Ban

WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank - along with five other lawmakers - sent a letter this week to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, urging an alteration of its ban on Internet gambling, Reuters news service has reported.


The action marks the second time this year Frank has looked to change the ban. In April, he introduced legislation that would create an exemption to the ban on online gambling for "properly licensed operators."


The letter this week, also signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and sent to U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, said the U.S. should consider modifying the ban on Internet gambling instead of compensating countries who claim the U.S. is violating trade agreements.


The World Trade Organization recently ruled against the U.S. after officials from Antigua filed a complaint over the ban. Government officials said they never intended to include gambling services in a 1994 trade agreement. However, other trading partners are able to ask for compensation because of the decision to retroactively exclude Internet gambling from trade agreements, Reuters reported.

"Your agency has chosen not to consult with Congress, but instead to take what we view as a drastic step which could have significant consequences for the whole WTO system," the letter states. "We are writing to express our interest in considering possible legislative solutions that might restore U.S. compliance with the GATS agreement without renouncing any of our commitments under that agreement."


In recent interviews, Frank emphasized that his bill, which essentially repeals the Internet-gambling ban, can be passed soon, but it needs help from the American people.


"It really depends on the citizens," he said. "As the average American understands what's happened, my colleagues are going to be told, ‘Listen, you made a mistake and you butt out of my business,' and at that point, I think we may be able to change it."