|The US Congress will vote Tuesday on a bill to ban Internet gambling. Pressured by other Republican leaders, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, has scheduled the vote on a bill that would prohibit the use of credit cards, checks and electronic fund transfers to pay for Internet gambling. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa.|
As late as last week, Armey was reportedly reluctant to schedule a vote on the Leach bill as it was too controversial and unlikely to receive to receive a two-thirds majority vote. However, the General Accounting Office (GAO) report suggesting that online gambling is susceptible to money laundering has given the bill fresh impetus.
'I don't think it's accurate to say the speaker forced Mr. Armey to schedule a vote, but we want the bill,' said John Feehery, spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. 'The speaker feels strongly that it's very important to get this done because a GAO report suggests these sites are being used to launder money.'
House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, also supports a vote on the Leach bill, sources said.
Armey spokesman Richard Diamond acknowledged the pressure of the House leadership contributed to Armey's decision to schedule a vote.
Diamond said lobbying by Rep. Mike Oxley, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House Financial Services, also was a factor.
'The testimony this month by FBI Director (Robert) Mueller that Internet gambling was a substantial means of money laundering used by terrorists and criminal elements also was important,' Leach chief of staff Bill Tate said.
Tate also cited the support of several family groups and sports organizations such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association as adding momentum for the Internet gambling ban.
Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., voted for an Internet gambling ban proposed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., in 2000. But Berkley said she is now against the Leach bill.
'I have never heard a convincing argument how the federal government can regulate Internet gaming,' Berkley said. 'I'm not an advocate of Internet gaming, but it seems to me that as long as there are offshore Web sites, (Internet gambling) should not be illegal in the United States.'