Jay Cohen: HR 556 “hypocrisy”
By Paul
Jay Cohen, co-founder of the World Sports Exchange offshore sports book, is furious about the Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act, which unanimously passed the House 7-0 last week. 'This bill is one more example of certain congressmen trying to advance their right wing social agenda in the name of fighting terrorism,' he says. 'It is an insult to all who lost their lives last year and all Americans to have their tragedy invoked in the name of stopping online gambling. Some of these congressmen don't care how low they stoop. Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia actually said with a straight face, '[This bill] will save a lot of lives and will really put a stake in the heart with regard to terrorism.'

Cohen is referring to the Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act (H.R. 556), a bill aimed at prohibiting online gambling by outlawing payments through credit cards, electronic fund transfers or 'any other form of financial transaction'.

Cohen added, 'This bill is littered with hypocrisy. While gambling is encouraged and condoned by almost every state in the union, this bill seeks to target offshore gambling operations because 'Gambling is evil.' If that is the case, shouldn't congress first stop gambling in the US instead of trying to interfere in free commerce and police the world?' Cohen is more qualified than most to speak out on the bill, scheduled as he is to begin a 21-month jail term on October 15th for allegedly violating the Wire Act of 1961.

On Tuesday, October 1, 2002, when congress voted on H.R. 556, the co-sponsors knew they had a fragile bill, which may easily have been struck down with a full House, so they opted to have a limited afternoon debate instead of waiting for the evening call. With less than 10 members in the chamber, they called for a voice vote--an easier way to get legislation passed--and knowing that the members who remained in the chamber would pass the bill, it was passed with unanimous consent. The bill still faces a tough fight in the Senate.

While the congressmen who co-sponsored this faulty bill argue that legitimate offshore gambling organizations are 'a danger to the family', 'a danger to society at large' and 'a high probability' of involvement for being used 'as part of money laundering and other criminal operations,' no evidence for this has been put forward. Furthermore, credit card and electronic fund transfers actually leave a trail of where the money comes from and where it goes. It is in land-based casinos where chips can be slowly bought at the tables with cash and then paid out as legitimate gambling winnings at the cashier window. It could easily be argued therefore, that land-based casinos are far more susceptible to money laundering.

There seems to be a certain amount of hypocrisy in the claim that Internet casinos are such a danger to families – after all, there are no inducements to drink alcohol at online casinos, compared to their land based counterparts, which make alcohol freely available – punters being much more likely to bet more heavily and recklessly when under the influence.

Two congressmen attempted to have the bill vetoed. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Joe Baca (D-CA) were not present at Tuesday's vote, but had these comments inserted on the record of the Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act:

Congressman Baca: 'I oppose H.R. 556, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act. Although this bill is entitled a 'prohibition' act, it is really an authorization act. Section 3 of the bill provides a carve-out for transactions with businesses licensed or authorized by States. It provides exemptions that, in essence, would allow States to license new Internet gaming operations for lotteries, horse tracks, and corporate gambling operations.'

Congressman Paul: 'H.R. 556 limits the ability of individual citizens to use bank instruments, including credit cards or checks, to finance Internet gambling. This legislation should be rejected by congress since the federal government has no constitutional authority to ban or even discourage any form of gambling.

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