Online gambling flourishes; sensible to legalize and tax it

Last month, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) filed an amendment, later withdrawn, to use Internet gambling revenue to increase low-income healthcare subsidies. In the last Congress, legislation was introduced by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) that would have dedicated the revenue to provide job training and educational assistance for those in declining sectors of the economy and foster care.

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While these proposals failed to materialize, it’s about time Congress gave fair consideration to pending legislation that would regulate Internet gambling in order to protect consumers and collect billions in revenue.

Whether you support or oppose the idea of giving Americans the freedom to gamble online, the activity is flourishing in an uncontrolled marketplace, sending billions in revenue out of the U.S. economy, overseas and underground. Despite attempts to prohibit the activity, Americans continue to wager online more than $100 billion annually. Though the law succeeded in driving several publicly traded Internet gambling operators to stop accepting wagers in the U.S., many unlicensed, offshore operators have continued to accept wagers and exploit U.S. policies.

House Committee on Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) introduced legislation earlier this year that would establish a similar federal-state framework to allow licensed operators to accept wagers in the U.S. Importantly, his legislation requires safeguards to protect vulnerable populations like children and problem gamblers. Additional provisions in the legislation reinforce the rights of each state to determine whether to allow Internet gambling and apply other restrictions on the activity as determined necessary.

On the revenue side, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) has introduced a companion to Chairman Frank’s legislation that would ensure individual and corporate taxes owed on regulated Internet gambling activities are collected, as they currently are from the land-based casino industry.

The push to regulate Internet gambling has gained momentum as 60 members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, have signed on as co-sponsors of Chairman Frank’s bill. A hearing and markup are expected in Financial Services after the panel completes regulations governing the financial services sector.

It’s time for Congress to end a failed prohibition and replace it with a regulatory environment where consumers are protected and billions in new revenue can finally be dedicated to better serve our country.

Washington

Tax credit fails to help renters


From Yvonne Farrell

A low-income renter, I am amazed that the powers that be are going to extend a first-time homebuyer tax credit now. We don’t need it. They haven’t done much for renters recently. I wonder what happened to sub-prime mortgages and all the trouble they caused. I guess because we have Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pushing them, we are supposed to ignore their dire effects. If only they helped us renters.

Low-income people can’t afford to buy housing, no matter the tax credit. New buyers had better be financially able to handle housing purchases on their own or else keep renting.

Perhaps someday our representatives will help all of us afford housing, which should be the point, instead of shoving more unaffordable mortgages into the system to enrich the bankers and real estate investors.

Washington