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Alabama congressman helps stop ‘secret’ plot to legalize Internet gamblingcomment (0)

January 6, 2011

By Kristen Padilla

Although Alabamians once again stopped an effort to legalize gambling in the state this year, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada nearly dealt Alabama and every other state in to Internet gambling.

During the lame-duck session of Congress, Reid attempted to introduce a bill that would repeal the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, which was drafted by U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama.

“[Reid’s bill] would [have given] a federal right to gamble no matter if places like Jefferson County, Shelby County or Tuscaloosa didn’t want gambling,” said Bachus, who attends Hunter Street Baptist Church, Hoover.

Had it not been for his sources, he said the bill probably would have passed unnoticed because of the way it was being handled — secretively and behind closed doors.

“We had heard from our own sources that they were going to attempt to bring a bill, so we were looking for it,” Bachus said. “We did get a tip from someone in the Senate that they were drafting a bill. [Reid] denied it for a while, then we got a copy of the bill.”

According to Bachus and sources of a MSNBC article, Reid’s plan was to tuck his bill into the tax cut bill. If he did not succeed by going that route, then he would attach it to the government funding bill, Bachus said. Reid nor his staff would comment.

It is speculated that Reid drafted his bill as political payback to casino companies that donated to his campaign in the last election. He received $192,000, the most given by a single company, from casino company MGM Resorts International and $83,100 from Harrah’s Entertainment (now Caesars Entertainment Corp.), according to The Associated Press. In addition, the bill was written in such a way that, at least for a little while, only Nevada and New Jersey would profit.

“Call it what you want to call it — if it brings revenues and jobs into the United States, it’s the right thing to do,” Alan Feldman, senior vice president for public affairs for MGM Resorts, said to MSNBC.

But Bachus disagreed with that argument, saying the ends do not justify the means.

“(They say) because it raises so much money, we should be for it,” he said. “It’s like saying, ‘It is bad (and) it will hurt people but we need the money.’

“A government should not finance its operation off of people’s addictions,” Bachus added. “It’s just another sign that when you can’t live within your means, you become a slave. You lose freedom and one of the freedoms is to say no.”  

And that’s what this bill would have done, said Tim Johnson, Bachus’ press secretary.

“How ironic would it be if people in Alabama spent a lot of effort to oppose gambling, then the federal government overruled (them) and made it legal for every home,” Johnson asked.

After Bachus and Reps. Dave Camp of Michigan and Lamar Smith of Texas, all three of whom are incoming chairmen for influential House committees, wrote a letter to Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and gave the bill media attention, Reid decided to pull the bill.

“By all accounts, this was the closest call yet for the gambling prohibition,” Johnson said. “Even a staunch Senate supporter of the ban, Sen. John Kyl (of Arizona), said without the intervention by Congressman Bachus and the House colleagues he rallied, Sen. Reid would have prevailed.”

Bachus’ strong stance against gambling hasn’t come without some bruises. He has been criticized for having the backing of “radical evangelist groups” and has been called an “extremist” and “radical.” “I’m being attacked for my faith,” he said.

But it’s because Bachus believes Internet gambling would have devastating effects on families that he hasn’t let opponents intimidate him enough to stop the fight.

“My No. 1 concern is for our youth and for our families,” Bachus said. “To allow gambling on every computer in every teenager’s bedroom and every college student’s dorm room is just too much of a temptation.

“No. 2, gambling is corruptive,” he continued. “And I’m afraid it will corrupt our political system. Third, as a parent and a citizen, I believe local communities and states should make those decisions and not the federal government.”

Although this latest attempt to legalize Internet gambling failed, there will be other attempts in the future, Bachus warned. That’s why everyone needs to become educated and to speak out on this issue, he added.

“Become educated to the issue that these are well-funded organizations that are attempting to allow gambling on the Internet 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which would permit a teenager to gamble on the Internet and to become addicted,” he said.

To contact Bachus or for more information, call 202-225-4921.

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