Ind. AG not on board with Internet gambling

Keith Loria Jun. 4, 2010, 2:56am

INDIANAPOLIS (Legal Newsline) - Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced on Friday that he opposes current federal bills that have reached Congress seeking to legalize Internet gambling, by licensing gaming operations under federal government control.

The bills in question - H.R. 2267, the proposed Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act, and some enabling legislation, H.R. 4976, the Internet Gambling Regulation and Tax Enforcement Act of 2010 - seek to allow companies to obtain federal licenses to legally operate domestically.

Most Internet gamblers today place bets with operators who work through offshore entities.

"As attorney general, my job description requires me to defend the ability of our state to pass its own state laws and not have them nullified or preempted by the federal government," Zoeller said. "The proposals before Congress would likely undermine the gambling enforcement powers of states."

If the federal licenses were granted, revenue would be federally taxed and states that comply would collect a 6 percent share of any money bet by players from their state.

Zoeller recently sent a letter to the chairman of the the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee in Congress, urging him to consider that these proposals would undercut the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 that Congress passed four years ago, which was widely supported by attorneys general from around the country.

If the new bills were to pass, it would allow states the option to extend Internet gambling and would attempt to put safeguards in place. However, if internet gambling operators obtained federal licenses, they would not be allowed to be prosecuted under state law.

Proponents argue that loosening restrictions on Internet gambling could raise billions of dollars in revenue for the federal government, but many fear the ramifications.

"While I recognize that Congress considers various scenarios for plugging the deficit in the federal budget, our concern is that licensing and taxing Internet gambling in this way would circumvent and preempt the autonomy of state government," Zoeller said.

"Rather than a one-size-fits-all federal approach, states should be free to decide for themselves whether to endorse online gaming at the state level and not have it forced upon them federally."

Zoeller believes that what is already put in place by the UIGEA and the Indiana Gaming Commission is sufficient.

Many sports organizations have weighed in on the matter.

"The NCAA has long opposed sports wagering because it threatens student-athlete well-being and the integrity of competition," Rachel Newman Baker, Director of Agent, Gambling and Amateurism Activities for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, said.

The National Football League echoed those concerns with a statement of its own.

"In May 2009, the NFL along with the other professional sports leagues and the NCAA, expressed opposition to Congress regarding pending Internet gambling bills that could override federal and state statutes against sports betting. Our concerns remain unabated and unaddressed. We continue to oppose these measures."

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