Frank Visits WSOP, Discusses Legislation Drive

American political heavyweights are becoming familiar faces at the World Series of Poker. In 2008, former New York Senator and current PPA Chairman Alfonse D’Amato visited the WSOP with online poker supporter Rep. Robert Wexler.

The 2009 Series saw Rep. Shelley Berkley accompany D’Amato for his second annual trip to the Rio. But on July 5, poker’s staunchest supporter in Congress, Rep. Barney Frank, took time out of his busy schedule as Chairman of the Financial Services Committee to become more familiar with the WSOP with a first-hand perspective.

After being escorted to the Amazon Room at the Rio in Las Vegas just before noon by WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack, Frank was introduced to the room full of poker players and fans. He spoke to the crowd with enthusiasm about current poker legislation and the importance of people getting involved by contacting their representatives in Congress to demand action on the issue of online poker. He then issued the “shuffle up and deal” command, toured the Rio Convention Center, and proceeded to hold a scheduled press conference early afternoon.

Frank was one of the many in the Congress appalled by the passage of the UIGEA in 2006 and almost immediately went to work on legislation to repeal the law. While his first attempt was unsuccessful due to the Republican-controlled Congress and promise of the Bush Administration to veto any such efforts, Frank continued to pursue change and introduced the Internet Gambling Regulation Consumer Protection & Enforcement Act of 2009. In addition, he added a second piece of legislation to delay enforcement of the UIGEA until December 2010, and Rep. Jim McDermott followed up with a companion bill to add taxation to the legalization and regulation of internet gaming.

The current status of the bills is that they are awaiting committee hearings, which were recently pushed back to September due to financial regulatory priorities ordered to the top of the hearing schedule by the Obama Administration. Frank discussed the process and his own ideas with regard to the forward movement of the legislation at the July 5 press conference.

“I plan to move this bill,” he said. “As Chairman of the Financial Services Committee, I am now pretty vigilant to adopt a set of rules that will keep us from getting in trouble again… The committee could be done with that by September, so it is my intention this fall to bring up, in the committee, the bills I’m sponsoring, one to suspend the [UIGEA] regulations, the other to repeal the whole ban and substitute a sensible regulatory scheme. I think they’re going to pass.”

Frank did add that although he hopes to get both of his bills passed right away, he is aware of the potential obstacles and understands the need for priorities. If it looks as if the repeal effort will be delayed whatsoever, he will work on “getting the regulations suspended while we work on the other bill.”

During the waiting period for committee hearings, Frank hopes to obtain as many co-sponsors for the bill as necessary. With Ron Paul as the bill’s primary co-sponsor and the number of supporters growing consistently, one name was floated as to her support, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Frank responded that he hadn’t spoken to her about it as of yet, but noted, “I would be surprised if she wasn’t supportive.”

On another topic, a member of the press asked Frank about the recent seizure of online poker funds by the Southern District of New York’s assistant U.S. attorney. Specifically, in response to the notion that the Obama Administration ordered the actions, he responded, “I hope the Obama Administration and Justice Department wouldn’t be part of it. I’m pretty sure that’s the case… But the bottom line is that you can’t have the Justice Department order a subordinate to overlook things. I do intend to pursue with them clarification of what the policy is here.”

Frank’s visit to the World Series of Poker indicated, as does his movement on pro-gaming legislation, that his pursuit of change to the current law is serious and without reservation. 

His commitment to the passage of his bills to regulate online gaming in order to keep it safe and legal is a priority as a powerful member of Congress, and his advocacy on the issue will continue.

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