Congress considering legalizing online gambling

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A man plays poker on his computer connected to an internet gaming site from his home in Manassas, VA 02 October, 2006.

This week, Congress takes up legislation that would legalize online gambling. The bill’s author is Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts. But an Orange County Republican also supports it.

GOP Congressman John Campbell of Irvine is no gambler. He says he can’t even remember what's a straight and a flush "and which one’s better."

But he does support allowing Americans to do what they want to do. "And Americans clearly like to gamble. And they would like to do it on the Internet."

Online gaming is illegal, but many people gamble on offshore websites or find poker buddies to play in cyberspace.

Campbell supports a measure that would make all this legal -- with consumer protections. For example, he says, "when gambling on an outside site, how do you know they pay anybody any winnings?"

Campbell, a vocal anti-tax man, does support imposing a tax on Internet gambling. He calls it "revenue that won’t be increasing taxes on anybody. If you don’t want to pay the tax, don’t gamble."

Democratic Congressman Joe Baca opposes the measure. He says there aren't enough protections to keep children and gambling addicts off the sites. Baca's district is home to Indian gaming casinos.

Campbell doesn't think online casinos pose a threat to traditional gambling sites. "There’s an experiential thing about going to Las Vegas or Atlantic City," he says. "There’s an experiential thing for a poker player to look somebody in the eye. So I don’t think this is going to put the brick and mortar gambling establishments out of business."

The House Financial Services Committee is scheduled to debate amendments to the bill tomorrow.

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