March 28, 2007
Reciting part of Henry Wadsworth Longefellow’s poem the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank stopped short of telling me when he would gear up for an attack on the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA).
I figured it out remembering additional verse from Longfellow’s memorable words: “on the 18th of April in Seventy-five.” He let me know I was on track with the April 18th target date to get cracking in the halls of Congress, explaining that the legislators would all be back in Washington after a two-week recess.
Congressman Frank seeks relief, now
Congressman Barney Frank assured me he will get beyond mere rhetoric and move swiftly against the “stupid” provisions of the UIGEA, which attempts to end online betting by American-based players. He has previously called the recent legislation one of the stupidest laws ever passed. Now he is fully focused on its affront to any freedom-loving citizen. This latter point makes him see red. It bodes well for online and commercial gaming interests who need a powerful advocate in the thick of the political maelstrom.
A seasoned member of the House of Representatives, Congressman Frank ascended to the Chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee when the Democrats won control of the Chamber last December. He is smart and has significant clout to go with his fearless style of getting out front on issues, no matter how controversial. “A bill will be filed later this month,” he says.
Frank’s motto is “be prepared”
For the moment he is doing his homework, part of his well-known modus operandi. He explained that he is consulting widely before moving forward with the drafting of legislation which will include but not be limited to a poker carve out from UIGEA. While the Congressman has previously noted, publicly, that he has no plans to work with Alfonse D’Amato on this matter, the former Senator and recently elected Chairman of the Poker Players Alliance has told me, directly, that he and Mr. Frank have at least, “touched base during the past week.”
Perhaps the explanation for the less than enthusiastic embrace of the PPA’s Chairman lies in the Congressman’s openly stated interest in getting some ideas and drafting advice from another former senator from New York, Tom Downey. Mr. Downey, a Democrat from Mr. D’Amato’s neighboring Suffolk County served in Congress from 1974-1993. Since then he has become a highly respected Washington insider as the Chairman of the Downey McGrath Group, Inc.
Congressman Frank is also consulting on big picture issues – relevant to the shot across the brow of UIGEA – with Southern Nevada Congresswoman, Shelley Berkley. Mr. Frank will now lead the charge and is determined to put forth a bill that will stay focused in the Financial Services Committee, according to Ms. Berkley who sounded genuinely excited about the planned cooperation between their two offices.
Berkley has a well-channeled ego
Moments before I left for Europe, last Sunday, Ms. Berkley rang me. We spoke briefly about the changing dynamics in dealing with both the common ground and divergent interests of her poker guys and her casino constituents. She said she was at Mr. Frank’s disposal to assist and to give him important feedback as he moves forward in the development of a bill. She expects to stand shoulder to shoulder with him (she’ll use stilts) in attacking the outrageous provisions of the UIGEA. The present game plan is for the ‘Frank bill’ to go forward before Berkley takes a further look at a study bill that would examine online gaming issues for future purposes.
A poker carve out from UIGEA as a clean separate bill looks as if it is dead as a door nail, but a bigger and more forceful bill is on a well lit horizon; leave it to Congressman Frank to keep it narrow enough to stay tightly within the reins of his committee.
Alfonse D’Amato is poised to zig and zag
PPA Chairman Senator Al D’Amato tells me the political process is inevitably filled with twists and turns. He says he will be staying on top of the situation, and promises to further enlighten me on his advocacy in Washington and recommendations to the poker community so as to enhance the prospects of success. We may see a bill from Frank or Berkley or both, but for sure Alfonse D’Amato will be in the background, pitching the cause of online gaming interests. He has assured the PPA he is going to earn his keep.