|Frank Catania and Keith Furlong used to help New Jersey enforce gambling regulations at Atlantic City casinos. Now, they are in the forefront of the fight to regulate, rather than ban, online gambling in the US. |
Catania and Furlong are consultants for the Interactive Gaming Council (IGC), a nonprofit organization based in Vancouver, British Columbia. The IGC represents online casino operators, online sports books, gambling software developers and ecommerce companies.
In 1999, the IGC hired Catania Consulting Group, which Catania created after leaving government. Catania is president, Furlong vice president. It is the latest in a series of partnerships between the two men.
When Catania represented Passaic County as a Republican assemblyman from 1990 to 1994, Furlong was his chief of staff.
At a hearing last month, members of the Senate Banking Committee and representatives of college athletics and US state and federal government condemned Internet casinos as susceptible to fraud, a danger to minors, a temptation for compulsive gamblers and a potential tool for money laundering.
''I describe Internet gambling as an evil, and I do not use that word lightly,'' said the committee's chairman, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.
Only Catania, formerly the head of New Jersey's Division of Gaming Enforcement, spoke in support of the $6 billion industry. He urged Congress to appoint a panel to study legalizing, regulating and taxing it.
Catania and Furlong, through their New Jersey-based consulting firm, now find themselves on the other side of the fence. US State attorneys have been among the strongest supporters of a federal ban on Internet gambling.
In 1997, Catania wrote a report recommending that, ''for the present,'' New Jersey do whatever it could to prohibit gambling over the Internet. But the report also noted that regulation and taxation could become a reasonable alternative.
Catania says evolving technology has made it possible for an online casino to determine who is placing a bet, and whether that person is in a state where Internet gambling is allowed. State laws governing what types of games are legal, and the minimum age to gamble, can thus be enforced, he said.