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The . . . Wheels . . . Of . . . Fortune . . . Grind . . . Slowly -- Near-Term Offshore Recovery Hopes Premature...By Nelson Lardner

Watched pots DO boil, eventually - but it's a waste of psychic energy to sweat over them.

Other than during wartime, our beloved D.C. pols will very seldom move themselves en masse in order to turn on a dime. That would make them look even more wishy-washy than usual, don't'cha know?

Yes, there was a lot of industry "smoke" wafting about this past week, coinciding with the opening of the NCAA Basketball Wagering Festival . . . but you'd have been hard-pressed to find a lick of fire.

The NETeller tug-of-war, featuring W's Department of Justice operatives and those whose monies have been imprisoned within the maws of the fiscal transfer agent since January, was sustained late this week when yet another extension was requested and approved by those involved. This delays the long-awaited hearing date regarding whether or not company originators John LeFebvre and Stephen Lawrence will be indicted -- to April 16. And after all this, you know that's not etched in stone. The good news: no indictments have been served up, yet. The not-so-good news: beaucoup U. S. residents are writhing while waiting to gain access to their own money - not all of which are gaming proceeds.

Justice notions that NETeller has been a major player in facilitating terrorist funding is ludicrous, on its face . . . a smokescreen . . . Based on previous Justice forays in this area, most on the gaming side feel they've been witnessing a sustained nuisance attack, related to Justice's apparent belief that voluminous taxable income has escaped U. S. detection through NETeller usage.

Encouragement can be drawn by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' finding himself in a perilous double squeeze - regarding the timeline associated with the apparently-politically-motivated firings of selected federal prosecutors, on the heels of the gross overstepping of bounds delineated by the Patriot Act, involving the overzealous employment of national security letters for purposes far above (and below!) those intended in the wake of 9/11. Gonzales' credibility has taken a severe hit, based on his demonstrably-faulty memory process regarding the germination and follow-through regarding the prosecutorial firings. The same line of logic applies to most forays into the "I don't recall" defense . . . 99.44% of the time, the employer of the strategy is truly stupid, or is being self-servingly obtuse. And Gonzales is not a stupid man.

A change in the AG's office might well herald a welcome alteration in Justice priorities. But, again, jumping to conclusions would be a perilous waste of energy at this juncture.

Confirming earlier speculations repeatedly reported here, the House Financial Services committee chairman, Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank, finally confirmed midweek what's long been hoped for. He's acknowledged putting in meaningful work on formulating a serious effort to repeal the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). Frank's gotten plenty of publicity for a while, from his outspoken opposition to what he's characterized as one of the stupidest laws ever enacted, but he's also being true to his core beliefs in championing this effort.

There IS a measure of time pressure here . . . full, formal implementation of the law, especially all crucial responsibilities of the nation's banks in money monitoring transfers allegedly for gaming purposes, is slated for this summer (you all remember that 270-day business, which was broadly presumed to offer a brief window of relative tolerance - ha!). No surprise that Treasury is unlikely to formally present final details before the spring. Much like the midnight passing of the legislation putting UIGEA on the books, have little doubt that the current regime would love to fast-track any odious, intrusive procedures with minimal discussion and maximum efficiency. If and when the public get a sustained load of what figures to come out of the pipeline in this area, you'll hear the screaming from the energized anti-snoop brigade from here to the North Pole.

As this Big Brother-bullying comes closer to fruition, the public's sensitivity to such encroachments will intensify. You saw knee-jerk reaction in isolated congressional races in '06. You figure to see much more, now that we frogs are getting very uncomfortable about just how hot the water in the pot is getting. The broad public is sometimes slow to pick up on the fact that the folks who do NOT have the public's best interests in mind are pulling the strings on this and other issues, and it's time to expose such operatives as the self-serving weasels they are.

When ex-New York Senator Alphonse D'Amato was named last month to chair the Poker Players Alliance, you know critical mass has been reached. If ol' "Senator Pothole" (named in honor of his extreme sensitivity and responsiveness to his loyal constituency's most minute wants and needs) has seen fit to lend his name to the poker players' (and, indirectly, sports bettors') cause, you know more and more common citizens are ready to man the barricades. Good to see - but you know that nothing substantial is going to happen very quickly.

Patience, patience.

Nelson Lardner

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