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Anne Lindner
 

Goodlatte? Leach? Both? Neither?

3 July 2002

Leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives are asking for Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Rep. James Leach, R-Iowa, to come to an agreement on Internet gambling before either congressman's anti-online gambling bill is brought before the full House for a vote.

A source close to the proceedings, who spoke on the condition of not having his name revealed, told IGN that House leaders would like the two lawmakers to arrive at common ground regarding Internet gambling, but even if that happens, the issue is not likely to be considered by the full House in the 30 voting days left in this year's session.

"Here's where things stand," the source said. "Leach and (Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio) are pushing for floor consideration, but the leadership, as I understand it, wants some agreement between Leach and Goodlatte before it's brought up."

Leach's spokesman, Bill Tate, said the congressman is currently not planning on combining his bill with Goodlatte's bill.

"(Leach) has met on a number of occasions with Mr. Goodlatte," Tate said, "but Mr. Goodlatte's bill has run into significant problems and the decision at this point is to go ahead simply with the Leach bill."

Tate said Oxley, who chairs the Financial Services Committee, has requested House floor time for Leach's bill to be discussed, but no date has been set.

Both Goodlatte and Leach have introduced bills that would make Internet gambling illegal in the United States.

Goodlatte's bill seeks to update the 1961 Interstate Wire Act to make online gambling illegal. When his bill was marked up two weeks ago by the House Judiciary Committee, it was stripped of its exemptions for the horse racing, casino and lottery industries. As a result, the lobbying power for those groups is no longer behind the bill.

Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association, said now that the Goodlatte bill would block all future Internet gambling for all segments of the gaming industry, a variety of groups will throw their weight toward opposition of the bill.

"They can speak for themselves, but I think what you are going to have happen is the lottery industry, the horse racing industry, native Americans and dog racing will all oppose this legislation," Fahrenkopf told IGN on June 18.

Because of the bill's loss of support from the gambling industry, many close to the process are saying the Goodlatte bill has little chance of ever being introduced before the full House.

"I don't see how he could bring that bill successfully to the floor," said a congressional aide who wanted to remain nameless. "Certainly given the time frame in Congress and all the other things they have to deal with, the prospects of getting it done are dim."

Leach's bill, which is also awaiting a vote before the House, takes a different approach than Goodlatte's bill takes. Leach's bill gives the responsibility of enforcing a ban on online gambling square on the shoulders of financial services companies. It would forbid the use of credit cards, electronic fund transfers or any other bank instrument from being used to pay for Internet gambling.

The success of Leach's bill depends in part on the reaction of the financial services industry lobby.

"They've got plenty of reasons to oppose the Leach bill if they want to," a Capitol Hill source said. "The problem is they have a lot of issues; there are other things they are working on. It's a question whether they want to dedicate resources to this."

The source confirmed that many on Capitol Hill are regarding Leach's bill as the I-gaming bill that could receive House attention in the three weeks before summer recess.

"The game really is the Leach bill," the source said. "Leach is in negotiation from a position of strength because Goodlatte's bill blew up in the Judiciary Committee."

Meanwhile, time is running out on this year's legislative calendar. The House adjourns for summer break in three weeks, and when it reconvenes in September, the representatives' time will be consumed by the year's appropriations bills. After that, IGN's source said, the legislators will want to leave Washington, D.C., to campaign in their home districts.

"Once (Leach and Goodlatte) reach an agreement, that doesn't mean they get floor consideration," the source said. "There's a lot of things competing for floor time right now. There's a lot of stuff related to homeland security."

Goodlatte? Leach? Both? Neither? is republished from iGamingNews.com.
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner