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Congressman Frank LoBiondo

Republican, District 2

Congressman Frank LoBiondo

Frank LoBiondo was first elected to Congress in 1994. A resident and businessman in Vineland, New Jersey, LoBiondo served on the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders from 1985 to 1987 and then in the New Jersey General Assembly representing the First Legislative District from 1988 to 1994. LoBiondo has been a tireless champion of the gaming industry and Atlantic City in his time in Congress. His ability to work with politicians from both parties on issues crucial to his district has been one of his hallmarks. He spoke with Global Gaming Business Publisher Roger Gros in his offices in Washington, D.C., in early February. To hear a full version of this interview, including LoBiondo’s views on Indian gaming in New Jersey, online poker, the state budget crisis, the development of Bader Field and more, go to www.ggbmagazine.com and click on the button for Podcast.

GGB: Let’s talk about the congressional gaming caucus that you had a role in setting up when you were first elected.
LoBiondo: I found myself as a freshman congressman-elect with about 70 other new congressmen like me. In that group was a congressman-elect by the name of John Ensign, from Nevada. What was interesting is that they had us in orientation, we were doing a lot together and without even knowing much about John or where he was from, we had a very good chemistry and started spending some time with each other, very quickly realized that we both represented a similar interest, talked about how we could improve on how we represent those interests, our constituents, our districts, and came up with the gaming caucus. We were co-chairs and it ended up being something I think that has been very productive for the people that we represent and has been a good way to bring other members of Congress together.

And it is bipartisan, correct?
It is bipartisan, it always has been and I hope that it always will be. Nevada’s Shelley Berkley has taken the lead this year. She has been involved with us since she was elected to Congress. We’ve had various folks who have been involved and taken lead positions, but it is focusing on what we can do for our constituents in the gaming industry.

One contentious federal issue is Indian gaming. We’re at the 20th anniversary of the IGRA bill that authorized tribal gaming, and there have been sporadic attempts to revisit that bill. Have you heard of anything coming up and would you favor revisiting that to any extent?
No, I haven’t heard of anything coming up with it. It doesn’t appear to be on any, even a long list of what’s coming in the future. Certainly anything that comes up involving gaming, we’ll put it under the microscope and take a close look. But I haven’t paid much attention to it right now.

Some members of Congress have been looking at internet gaming. There have been been several bills out there allowing certain kinds of internet gaming and not others. There’s a bill out there now, and I believe you’re a co-sponsor of it, to set up a federal study panel. Where is that going?
I think that is the way to go. I believe that the bill that Congressman (Barney) Frank has out of the Financial Services Committee is very well intended, but I think it presents big problems. And if, in fact, we are to move forward, we really need to do it right and the current situation is not right.

The bill that I’ve co-sponsored with Congressmen (Jon) Porter and Berkley of Nevada would set up a study commission so that we could, with today’s state-of-the-art technology, intelligently and accurately determine the best course of action to take.

While the gaming companies have been rather low-key on Chairman Frank’s bill, I think it’s pretty clear that they’d like to see this study.

One of the issues that, for some reason, keep coming up in the Atlantic City area is the sports betting issue. Do you see any hope that we could revive that issue and even get New Jersey a second bite at the apple, so to speak?

First of all, I’ve been a strong supporter of sports betting. I think it’s a component that makes all the sense in the world. A little bit like internet gaming, we know that there is sports betting that’s going on. We know that it’s not being done legally, and we know that this can cause big problems. So, I think that the way Nevada and the other jurisdictions that have it are doing it have proven that it’s very viable, and I think it’s another tool that the casinos can
use to be able to continue with their economic stimulus they’re providing in the jobs.

I was disappointed when New Jersey did not have the ability to vote in the early ’90s on this, but was very pleased that it appears that the state of New Jersey, through legislative action, is proceeding. And they have a rather unique point of view in that the federal laws are unconstitutional for interstate commerce reasons, and that the state of New Jersey, if in fact they pass and enact this, can challenge the feds in court. And I would welcome that. I’d love to see us be victorious. I think it would be a great win for New Jersey and for Atlantic City.

The racing industry was paid $80 million by Atlantic City casinos over the last four years and just signed an agreement to pay another $90 million for the next three years. Where does it end?
I think it’s terribly wrong. It’s almost like somebody on the street coming up to you and saying, you know, I know where you live, I know where your kids are, I have a gun, and you’re either going to pay me $1,000 or something bad is going to happen. So if the Atlantic City casinos say they are not going to pay this money, then we know that they’ve been threatened with VLTs and who knows what else? So I think it’s very bad policy and, if these racetracks are so important then why aren’t people supporting them?

In our society, if you do well, you succeed, and if you don’t, the casinos should not have to pay for the faults of the racing industry and their inability to run a profitable business.

To hear a full version of this interview, including LoBiondo’s views on Indian
gaming in New Jersey, online poker, the state budget crisis, the development of Atlantic City’s Bader Field and more, go to www.ggbmagazine.com and click on the button for GGB Podcast.

Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.

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