U.S. Rep. Robert Goodlatte, Republican-Virginia, has once again introduced a bill to make Internet gambling a federal crime. The 2001 version, introduced this morning in the House of Representatives, is called the “Combating Illegal Gambling Reform and Modernization Act.”
In previous years, Goodlatte’s bill has been called the “Internet Gambling Prohibition Act.” It was last considered by the House on July 17, 2000. Although it received a majority of votes, it failed because it was brought up for a vote under special rules that required a two-thirds majority.
A bill under the same name, introduced by Sen. Jon Kyl, Republican-Arizona, was passed by the Senate in November 1999.
In a press release this morning, Goodlatte’s office said the new bill “will crack down on the growing problem of illegal, off-shore gambling, which sucks billions of dollars per year out of the U.S. economy, serves as a vehicle for money laundering, undermines families, and threatens the ability of states to enact and enforce their own laws. It will also tighten up existing federal law and make clear that the prohibitions apply to the Internet and other new technologies.”
Goodlatte said in his statement: “Gambling on the Internet has exploded into a lucrative business that sucks billions of dollars out of the U. S. economy each year and costs tens of thousands of jobs. These illegal, off-shore gambling websites are unlicensed, untaxed, and unregulated. Illegal gambling sites evade existing anti-gambling laws by operating off-shore, providing a nearly undetectable harbor for criminal enterprises.
“. . . It is time to shine a bright light on these illegal sites and bring a quick end to illegal gambling on the Internet.”
In a summary of the bill, Goodlatte’s office says that “Under current federal law, it is unclear that using the Internet to operate a gambling business is illegal.” It says that the Wire Act (a 1961 law that was used to prosecute Jay Cohen of World Sports Exchange) “has become outdated – it is not clear that it applies to the Internet at all.
“. . . The bill amends the Wire Act to make it clear that its prohibitions include Internet gambling by bringing the current prohibition against wireline interstate gambling up to speed with the development of new technology and expanding the existing prohibition to include all bets or wagers, not merely bets or wagers on sporting events or contests”
In February, a federal judge in New Orleans ruled that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting, not to casino gambling – Sg Online Casino
Goodlatte’s new bill appears to include key provisions of a bill introduced in February by Rep. James Leach, Republican-Iowa, that would ban the use of credit cards and other financial instruments of U.S. banks for “unlawful Internet gambling.” The Leach bill was passed yesterday by the House Financial Services Committee.
The summary from Goodlatte’s office states: “Prohibits Credit Card Use for Illegal Gambling – The bill prohibits a gambling business from accepting certain forms of non-cash payment, including credit cards and electronic transfers, for the transmission of bets and wagers in violation of this Act. This provision provides an enforcement mechanism to address the situation where the gambling business is located offshore but the gambling business used bank accounts in the United States.”
It’s possible that the Leach bill and Goodlatte’s new bill will be combined at some point.
Goodlatte’s previous efforts to ban Internet gambling got bogged down in disputes about the consequences of his legislation. Some Representatives, for example, were concerned about whether Internet Service Providers would be expected to block access to gambling sites.
Goodlatte appears to be shifting the enforcement mechanism from ISPs to credit card firms. The last item in the summary provided by his office today states:
“Provides Additional Remedies for Illegal Gambling – The bill provides an additional tool to fight illegal gambling by allowing Federal, State, local and tribal law enforcement to seek injunctions against any party to prevent and restrain violations of the Act. No party will be civilly or criminally liable for complying with such an order. This provision does not apply to blocking by an interactive computer service.”