The online gaming industry had high spirits when Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts and Chair of the House Banking Committee, pushed a bill to legalize online casinos and poker rooms through his committee with bi-partisan support. Frank was an outspoken critic of the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act), and was one of a handful of legislators that realized legal online gaming could provide additional tax revenues to the cash starved USA government. With the bill successfully out of committee, the expectation was that Frank would eventually have it on the house floor for debate within the coming months.

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Now, however, it appears his efforts might have been in vain: Decision 2010 is leaning heavily towards a Republican/Tea Party victory, and that includes the possibility that Frank himself might get voted OUT of office. That’s bad news for Democrats, especially considering the fact that Massachusetts has traditionally been a blue state, and that Frank’s district – thought to be one of the most liberal in the country – is actually polling towards a very close race with Republican challenger Sean Bielat.

To be sure, Frank is still statistically favored to win. A recent OnMessage Poll shows Frank at 48% and Bielat trailing with 38%. 13% of the voters surveyed are undecided (Source: Article). Bielat’s campaign is optimistic, believing that Frank’s 10 point and dropping lead might put them in contention. As always, though, it’s the undecided, independent voters that often mean the difference between victory and defeat. If Frank wants to lock up his seat for another term, he’s going to have to court these voters in the remaining hours before polls open November 2, 2010.

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What does all this mean for online gaming? It’s very possible that if Frank loses this election, his bill legalizing online gaming might lose, too. At this point, it’s unclear whether or not the bill will actually make the House agenda, especially considering the more urgent National economic crisis. This and mounting job loss numbers might put Frank’s bill on the back-burner indefinitely. Ultimately, this means that online gaming WILL NOT be legalized in the USA anytime soon.

So, for the time being, it is still technically illegal to gamble online if you’re from the USA. Despite the efforts of many online gaming lobby groups, like iMega (Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association), who have also advocated for offshore casino owners in various court cases, the actual political will to push Frank’s groundbreaking bill into law may not be present. This also means large USA casino operators, such as Harrah’s, have to put their own plans for an online casino on hold as well, while politicians and other industry giants sort themselves out.

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In the meantime, the goal is to get Barney Frank re-elected and back in the Chairman’s seat of the House Banking Committee. This outcome to Decision 2010 may not necessarily fast track his bill, but it will provide a glimmer of hope to online casinos that want to be regulated and operate legally in the USA market. Cross your fingers…

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