The Boston Globe newspaper reported this week that Newton, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank does not gamble, but has received support for his reelection campaign from many gamblers.
The reason will be well known to most online gamblers and operators, if not the Boston public at large – Frank has been a determined political campaigner for a state-controlled, regulated and legalised online gambling regime in the United States, and strongly supports the right of citizens to decide how they spend their disposal income.
He has been instrumental in pointing out the confusion and inequities in US laws and tried to fix them, in the process publicising the positive aspects of the industry and its taxation potential.
To quote the Boston Globe article: "More than any other lawmaker, Frank is cited by online gamblers as their standard-bearer. In his powerful position as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, he has proposed legalization that would legalize their industry, which has a shadowy image and is constantly under fire by the US Department of Justice."
The newspaper goes on to reveal that over the past year, Frank has quietly become a cult hero for poker players and the online gambling industry by championing their cause on Capitol Hill. The result is contributions from gamblers to his campaign during a fund-raiser, and since January 2007, he has received $48 300 from poker interests, making up about 7 percent of his individual contributions, according to public records.
The Globe reports that gambling information websites have started posting videos of Frank from C-SPAN. Recent donors to his campaign account include a pit boss at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and a world champion professional poker player who started out on the Internet called Chris Moneymaker.
In October, 10 of the country's top professional poker players held a fund-raiser in Washington for Frank. The player roll call included the likes of Annie Duke, Howard Lederer and Andy Bloch.
The report goes on to outline the history and current legalization position of online gambling in the United States, including the controversial passage into law of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which bans financial transactions with online gambling companies and resulted in a number of large companies leaving the US market and incurring heavy losses.
Importantly, the report notes that several businesses were exempted from the law, including online state lotteries, fantasy sports, and Internet horse racing.
In an interview with the Boston Globe, Frank said that his stance on gambling is rooted in his views about the proper limits on government intervention in people's personal decisions. "If people want to gamble in the privacy of their homes," he said, "they should be allowed."
He said he reread John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty" before filing legalization that would block the UIGEA.
"If it affects me, mind your own business," he said. "If affects others, let the government get involved."
The chief of the one million members strong Poker Players Alliance, former Senator Alphonse D'Amato, is quoted as describing Frank thus: "He's a powerful, well-respected member of the Congress. That is important. He has been able to get members to look at this issue. No one has been able to do that."