Congressional Caucus Aims to Aid Online Gambling

Congressional Caucus Aims to Aid Online GamblingTwo federal lawmakers are aiming to organize support for nationwide gambling endeavors by forming a Congressional Gaming Caucus.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) are co-chairing the caucus, which received approval in March from the House Administration Committee. The legislators are planning a meeting in the near future designed to recruit some of their congressional colleagues to become members.

The caucus intends to focus on matters of concern to the entire gambling industry, both land-based and online. With gambling expansion on the rise in numerous states, including regulations for Internet wagering, Heck and Thompson believe its crucial for federal legislators to become involved, delawareonline.com reported.

The caucus leaders are currently not promoting any specific legislation. But they are hoping to advance responsible federal policies to allow the gaming industry to create additional jobs, Heck said. In a letter sent to fellow lawmakers in April urging their colleagues to consider caucus membership, the pair noted that roughly 800,000 jobs were created in the gaming industry in 2010 throughout 212 congressional districts.

Previous attempts at passing online poker and gambling legislation at the federal level have been unsuccessful. The most recent of those, the Reid/Kyl bill, aimed to legalize online poker while tightening up restrictions against other forms of Internet gambling. The bill received a tremendous amount of media exposure, but eventually was never introduced during last year’s lame duck Congressional session due to lack of support.

Thompson and Heck hope to promote the economic benefits of gambling by reviving the caucus. Instead of gambling issues falling by the wayside, as they often do, the Congressional Gaming Caucus will allow such matters to remain at the forefront of the congressional conversation, Heck said.

The American Gaming Association, which represents over 500 casinos throughout the nation, is supportive of the caucus. AGA spokeswoman Holly Wetzel said that the time is ripe for concerns of the gaming industry to have improved organization and representation.

Gambling groups among individual states are also backing the idea of increased involvement on the federal front. Various states are considering online gambling legislation in addition to the three that have already enacted Internet gaming laws. But most agree that a federal framework would better serve the industry as opposed to the continued push currently underway at the state level.