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Frank Challenging "Stupidest Law" Ever
by Max Drayman

The London Financial Times reported this week that Barney Frank, the Democratic chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, will trying to repeal the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which was passed by the U.S. Congress last year. Mr. Frank called the Act one of the "stupidest laws" ever passed.

Financial markets—hungry for good news after several months of menacing activity directed at the online gaming industry by U.S. law enforcement officials—responded quickly. Shares of Gibraltar-based internet poker operator PartyGaming Plc saw their biggest gain in 15 months and shares of 888 Holdings Plc and SportingBet Plc also advanced in London.

Frank has spoken out on internet gambling before: speaking in Congress last year—prior to the UIGEA—he responded to claims that online gaming contributes nothing to the U.S. economy by stating, "Has it become the role of this Congress to prohibit any activity that an adult wants to engage in voluntarily, if it doesn't add to the GDP or make us more competitive? What kind of socio-cultural authoritarianism are we advocating here?"

At a time when the gaming industry could certainly use a new champion in halls of U.S. power, the Massachusetts Democrat is a good candidate.

He has a strong record when it comes to taking a stand on controversial issues—he was one of the only politicians in the United States who voted against the war in Iraq and has been twice voted in Washingtonian magazine's survey of Capitol Hill staffers (2004, 2006) as the "brainiest" member of the House of Representatives.

Whether Frank's stand against the protectionist UIGEA legislation stands a chance of succeeding is another issue.

To date there have been very few challengers to anti-gambling legislation in the U.S. and what opposition has surfaced, soon gets bogged down in the legislative processes.

For instance, nearly a decade after his first high-profile effort to free the Narragansett Indians (Rhode Island) from having to secure state and local voter approval before opening a gambling hall on their tribal land in Charlestown, U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy says he is finally ready to pick up where he left off.

But Kennedy is no champion of gambling interests and has said that his involvement is due to his conviction that the amendment was "a bad precedent" in the broader context of federal Indian law because of its ramifications for the sovereign status of tribes.

Steven Adamske, spokesman for Barney Frank, said that he is still thinking over the issue, has not drafted a bill and has no timetable for action. On Thursday Frank announced that he will give details in the coming weeks.

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