By Jeremy D. Frey (firstname.lastname@example.org) a partner in the law firm of Pepper Hamilton LLP focusing on white collar criminal defense.
As Jonathan Cohn writes for The New Republic in Why I’ll Miss Barney Frank, there are two types of legislators: those who make headlines and those who make laws. Cong. Frank “managed to do both things and do them well.” Frank has announced his retirement from Congress in January 2013.
From his perch as former Chair (and now ranking member) of the House Financial Services Committee, democrat Frank was the earliest and most influential US politician to advance internet gambling legislation in Washington.
Instead, Frank brought to the debate three plain but powerful arguments. First, unless an activity is harmful to others, it’s not the business of the federal government to regulate what adult Americans do.
Various bills sponsored by Republicans have been introduced and are under consideration, primarily including Frank’s HR 1174 (sponsored by John Campbell, R-Ca) and Joe Barton’s (R-Tx) HR 2366. The Frank/Campbell bill, which is not limited to internet poker, and Barton’s bill, which proposes to legalize internet poker though state licensed agencies, each have a brace of Republican cosponsors. In a related development, on 23 December 2011 the Department of Justice acknowledged that the Wire Act (18 U.S.C. 1084) does not prohibit states from using the internet to sell lottery tickets (non-sports betting) within their own borders.
In short, Frank’s departure from Congress 12 months hence will only mean the loss of a potent advocate for internet gambling. The initiative is now so mature that the most important remaining question is whether US regulation will be federally coordinated (favored by the bricks-and-mortar American Gaming Association) or basically left to the states, as now seems a bit more likely. Whatever the outcome, it should be counted as part of Frank’s legacy.