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Congressman seeks exemption for games that mix skill and chance

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The taxman cometh

Aside from the potential headaches with important trading partners the current policy incurs, many have wondered why the US would forego the significant tax revenue potential of legalized online gaming.

Congressman Jim McDermott of Washington sought to rectify that last week, also on Thursday, as he introduced the Internet Gambling Regulation and Taxation Enforcement Act (IGRTEA), a bill that seeks to tax the industries Barney Frank seeks to bring out of the shadows.

Mr McDermott summarized the ambivalence many in this relatively religious country feel about the online gambling industry in his remarks on the floor after introducing the bill.

Mr. Speaker, I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian home that cast a dim view on gambling. I didn't care for it much then, and I don't care for it now. While the Bible never directly uses the word "gambling," there are plenty of references to it in Scripture, and none of them are very kind.

Still, from lotteries to casinos, gambling is part of the American scene today. Across the country, governments derive revenue from gambling that flows into public coffers. Whether you call it a sin tax or self-imposed tax, it helps fund good social programs.

Today, gambling has migrated online where it is unregulated, off shore and exporting billions of U.S. dollars. Basically, we have a Wild West show with few protections for Americans against fraud, underage gambling and privacy. My colleagues, Barney Frank and Peter King, have introduced legislation to establish some order and law online with licensing and regulation. I am introducing a companion bill today that establishes the process to collect some of the gambling revenue online just as we do in the communities.

If we decide as a Nation to enable gambling online, the billions of dollars flowing out of this country should remain here to help us fund schools and bridges and a host of social programs that need more than luck to succeed.

Skill gaming could well be the trojan horse the online gambling industry needs to find its way out of the regulatory wilderness. ®

Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office

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