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US lawmakers renew fight for legal online gambling

'A personal liberty with benefits'

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Lawmakers have renewed their efforts to legalize some forms of online gambling with a bill that would roll back a ban on internet betting that was passed in 2006, when Republicans controlled congress.

The legislation was introduced earlier this month by US Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts. It would permit the Treasury Department to license and regulate online gambling sites that serve American customers. Unlike a similar bill introduced in 2007 that never made it out of committee, HR 2267 would prohibit betting on sporting events.

The bill would also allow states and Indian tribes to continue to limit or prohibit online gambling services offered to their residents. The Library of Congress lists 23 co-sponsors of the bill.

The legislation would represent a significant change to federal law. Under legislation passed in September 2006, financial institutions are prohibited from handling transactions that involve internet gambling sites. Social conservatives have long opposed online betting, as have states such as Kentucky, which are home to legalized gambling franchises that many see as under encroachment by internet gambling.

When announcing the legislation, Frank, who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said regulated internet gambling could increase tax revenues. He went on to equate online gambling as a personal liberty that the federal government should neither encourage nor discourage.

Not that anyone should consider passage a done deal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is a Democrat from Nevada, where casino gambling accounts for a large percentage of the state's revenues. "Gaming is an important industry to the state, and anything that affects it will be reviewed carefully," a statement from Reid's office said. ®

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