North Dakota a Gambling Haven?


Outside the Beltway, way out there in flyover land on the prairies of North
Dakota, not all Republicans are lining up to support U.S. Senate Majority
Leader Bill Frist’s call to
ban Internet gambling.


In fact, North Dakota State Rep. Jim Kasper says, “My fellow Republicans
just don’t get it” when it comes to Internet gambling.


In July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the
Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, which updates the 1961 Wire
Act banning sports wagering over the telephone to include all forms of
online gambling.


Frist (R-Tenn.) wants the Senate to approve the same legislation in the
waning days of the 109th Congress.


Kasper calls the proposal “ridiculous.”


“The people of our nation want to do what they want to do in the privacy of
their living rooms,” Kasper told internetnews.com.


Contrary to the intent of his national party leaders, North Dakota will become a safe harbor for Internet poker players worldwide if Kasper has his way.


Kasper plans to introduce bills in the next session of the North Dakota
legislature legalizing Internet poker for online casinos that will bring
their software, hardware and employees to North Dakota.


The proposal is strictly limited to online poker in hopes of avoiding the
controversy swirling around sports betting on the Internet.


The casinos will have to use North Dakota’s state-owned bank as a measure to
protect gamblers’ money and safeguard against money laundering.

Software
mandates, Kasper claims, will provide age-verification protections and allow
the state to monitor for individuals exhibiting addictive behavior.


In return for North Dakota sanctioning and regulating online poker, casino
operators will pay taxes on gross revenues that will be used to reduce
property taxes.


“[The casinos] will be able to do business worldwide except where it is expressly prohibited,” he said. “These are computer-based companies that
provide an Internet service.”


And the federal government should “keep its nose out of it. Gambling is a
states’ rights issue. Congress shouldn’t be regulating it.”


Kasper contends Congress has the right to prevent crime but not to stop
online Texas Hold’em sessions.

North Dakota, he said, should be allowed to
tap into the “tremendous revenue stream leaving our nation.”


Even under the U.S. House legislation, state-sanctioned online gambling on
horse racing and lotteries is permitted.


For Kasper, this will be his second time trying to convince his
fellow North Dakota lawmakers to see it his way.

In 2005, his proposal passed — barely — in the state house before overwhelmingly failing in the state Senate.


Kasper said he was forced to fold his legislative hand when the U.S.
Department of Justice (DoJ) “unfairly” interfered in North Dakota’s
legislative process.


“The DoJ wrote what I call a ‘poison pill’ letter [to North Dakota’s
attorney general],” he said. “It had misinformation about the Wire
Act, implying it applies to all Internet gambling.”


If it does, Kasper wants to know why the House felt compelled to pass
legislation extending the Wire Act to Internet gambling.


“The Wire Act was specifically written to prohibit sports wagering over the
telephone,” he said.


When the North Dakota attorney general publicly released the letter, Kasper
said he was “unable to successfully battle the DoJ.”


Even if Frist is able to maneuver the House bill through the Senate and
President Bush signs the legislation expanding the Wire Act to Internet
gaming, Kasper swears he will crack open a fresh deck and still introduce
his bill.


“I believe in a court of law we’ll win,” he said. “People don’t want the
Internet police in their living rooms.”

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