|Bob Goodlatte’s anti-Internet gambling bill took a step towards becoming law yesterday, when the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee approved the bill. . It now must now be reconciled with a similar effort passed by the Financial Services Committee before the full House can vote on it. |
The bill would update the Wire Act of 1961, which bans interstate wagers – and thereby, Internet gambling per se, including the 1500 offshore casinos and sports books. It would enable law-enforcement agents to take down gambling sites and banner ads, and stop credit-card payments to sites operating outside of the country.
The bill has been criticized by both sides of the house, partially because of the numerous loopholes and compromises it contains. The casino industry, led by the American Gaming Association, has recently got behind the bill because it would allow them to have networked games, such as million-dollar jackpot slot machines, in states that allow Internet gambling – currently only legal in Nevada.
The bonus for the casino industry is that it will hurt the offshore gambling industry: The bill 'gives new tools to law enforcement to deal with these 2,000 offshore sites that are sucking billions of dollars out of our country that are unregulated, untaxed, illegal, and they're interfering with the way states have historically regulated gambling,' Goodlatte said.
Republican Florida Representative Robert Wexler said that the bill would discriminate against dog racing and jai alai while favoring casinos and horse racing. Wexler's Florida district includes dog racing and jai alai operations.
'Either say no exemptions, nobody gets 'em, and nobody can do Internet gambling — if you want to that, do it,' Wexler shouted in the hearing. 'But if you're going to let Internet gambling in (on) one deal, let them all do it.'
Other concerns raised were that the bill would be unenforceable, and that it may hurt plans for charitable operations to offer Internet-based bingo for fundraising purposes.
A lobbyist working on the bill who asked not to be identified said Senate supporters have decided to take it up only if the House passes it, and predicted that President Bush would sign it. Previous efforts to outlaw Internet gambling have failed when supporters didn't garner enough votes or when one chamber didn't act.