Under Fire, Gambling Trade Group Looks to COPA Rulings

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association is looking to the adult industry's defeat of the Child Online Protection Act as it fights federal legislation designed to crack down on Internet gambling.

iMEGA, a trade organization representing several dozen members, is waiting for a U.S. Appeals court ruling on its challenge to the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA). The association recently won an appeal in Kentucky to stop the seizure of 141 Internet gambling domain names.

iMEGA chairman and CEO Joe Brennan Jr. sees many parallels between the adult industry's battle with COPA and the government's attempt to curtail the online gambling business.

"Our lead counsel is Eric Bernstein, who until recently was a board member of the Free Speech Coalition, so we're familiar with what was happening with COPA," Brennan told AVN Online.

As Brennan pointed out, both laws specifically target activities and behavior on the Internet. "And only for the reason that it is on the Internet," he said. "You would not imagine laws being written attacking civil liberties in the offline world in a similar matter.

"All we have to do is look at the fact that for the gaming industry, gambling is legal in 48 of the 50 states to one degree or another. But now you have a federal law targeting Internet gaming and the only real reason is to appeal to a particular voting block, which is ultra-conservatives."

Brennan called the issue "low-hanging fruit," easy to pick and "demonize" in a public forum.

"Because of the availability of gambling on the Internet, it brings it into every household just as the Internet would bring adult content into the household," he said.  "But it's not like water pumping into a home. And neither gaming nor adult content are passive mediums; someone has to go out and seek it."

Under the guise of going after illegal offshore operators, Brennan said the gaming law targets banks and credit card companies funding Internet gaming.

As in obscenity cases, the anti-gambling legislation provides no clear definition of what constitutes "illegal."

"So it's not unlike defining obscenity - 'we know what it is when we see,'" Brennan said. "Legislators declined to define what unlawful Internet gambling was, though a number of government agencies, congressional subcommittees and the American Banking Association all asked, before even getting to Internet gambling operators.

"So, it creates the same situation you had with COPA, an over-blocking situation,. What's legal or not could not be determined; you ask different government agencies and they all have different answers. And Barney Frank, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is the one who said that."

FOr more information on iMEGA, visit www.imega.org.