|The House Judiciary Committee today again set aside a bill that would ban most forms of Internet gambling. |
Today the panel haggled over an amendment introduced by Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., to protect Internet wagers under certain conditions on dog racing and jai alai in his district. Goodlatte opposed the amendment, saying it gave those contests an unfair advantage. The amendment failed on a 15-15 tie.
But legislation sponsor Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said he is optimistic the panel will approve the bill soon, despite criticism of the bill from members of the panel. The next hearing on the legislation has not been set.
Goodlatte has been fighting to ban cyber casinos, in particular off-shore gambling websites, for several years. In recent months the legislation has been snagged by concerns voiced by a number of gaming interests and other lawmakers.
Goodlatte said the casino industry now generally supports his bill after he agreed to make two changes. One change clarified that the legislation would not ban casinos from taking bets on horse races, which casinos are already allowed to do in Nevada. Another change clarifies that a gaming company could someday offer an Internet gambling website under certain conditions: that the state approves; that minors don't make bets; and that bettors be located in states that also allow Internet gambling.
However, he still faces opposition from: Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, is urging members of his party to vote against the Internet gambling ban. Spokeswoman Dena Graziano confirmed this but declined to define why Conyers is opposed to the bill.
In addition to Democratic opposition, Goodlatte's bill will face resistance from at least one Republican member of the committee, Chris Cannon of Utah.
'I don't know how the vote is going to shake out, but a lot of people don't like this legislation,' Cannon said.
Another vocal foe of Goodlatte's bill on the committee is expected to be Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va.
Scott continues to question whether an Internet gambling ban can be enforced against offshore Web sites that are not within the jurisdiction of the United States.
'I think the goals of the legislation would be much better met by legalizing and controlling gambling rather than trying to prohibit running a gambling operation on the Internet,' Scott said.
The American Gaming Association, the casino industry's chief lobbying group, originally opposed Goodlatte's bill but agreed last month to support it.
The switch occurred after Goodlatte changed his bill so that a ban would not apply to Nevada and other states that may eventually legalize Internet gambling. Another change allows Nevada sports books to continue taking bets on horse races in other states.
Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association, declined to comment Wednesday.
After the hearing, Goodlatte said it has been difficult to craft legislation that meets the approval of a wide variety of gaming interests, states and lawmakers.
When asked if he was frustrated with the pace of his effort, he said, 'We're moving it along, one step at a time.'