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Anne Lindner
 

House Passes Leach Bil

1 October 2002

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill this afternoon that bans Internet gambling by way of blocking all payment mechanisms for it.

The bill, HR 556, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act, was passed without objection by a voice vote, meaning that exactly who voted was not recorded.


"[Internet gambling is] a danger to the family, to society at large, and should be ended."
-Rep. James Leach

The bill was considered under a suspension of the rules, meaning that it was voted on after 40 minutes of discussion and required a two-thirds majority to pass. Proposed by Rep. James Leach, R-Iowa, last fall, the bill outlaws usage of a credit card, electronic fund transfer or any other bank instrument to pay for Internet gambling.

Due to provisions added via an agreement with Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., who proposed a similar bill that died in the House Judiciary Committee this year, the Leach bill also updates the 1961 Interstate Wire Act to make it illegal to use the Internet to transmit a bet or wager across state lines.

Leach, speaking from the House floor, said the bill creates a new crime--Internet gambling. Before that's official, however, the bill will need to be passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Bush.

Several members of the House with ties to the bill spoke on its behalf, and most mentioned the social problems associated with problem gambling as justification for passing it--making it sound, at times, as if Internet gambling means almost certain death for broad swaths of the American population, including children, college students and people with credit cards.

LaFalce, who in addition to Leach proposed an online gambling prohibition bill earlier this year, noted that thanks to the Internet, gambling can be found anywhere, and any student or child with computer access can gamble online "on games that appear little different than the computer card games they've played since childhood."

"This poses a significant risk to our nation's youth," said Rep. John LaFalce, D-N.Y. "Banks and credit card companies have aggressively marketed credit cards on college campuses for years."

Leach noted that gambling addiction causes divorce and suicide, among other social and family problems.

"It's a danger to the family, to society at large, and should be ended," he said.


"We are doing nothing here but making some wonderfully effective speeches about what we are stopping from happening on the Internet, but somebody on the Judiciary Committee must be aware that this is not the case."
-Rep. John Conyers

Leach said the bill, if made law, would require financial institutions and Internet service providers to cooperate with law enforcement in putting offshore gambling out of reach of Americans. It was not mentioned during the debate that credit card transaction blocking already makes it difficult for many Americans to gamble online using credit.

LaFalce, who paused during part of his speech to ask for "quiet in the House," also said that according the testimony from the director of the FBI, Internet gambling could be a breeding ground for money laundering and therefore terrorist activity. Other House members echoed the statement.

"To vote against this bill would be unbelievable," LaFalce said. "If anyone votes against this bill, I won't understand it."

Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., commented that the bill contains a provision that allows for legal Internet gambling transactions from any business operation that is licensed to legally offer Internet gambling within a state's borders. He said the provision indicates that the framers of the bill wanted to make sure it would be supported by state interests that might want to get involved in online gaming, such as lotteries.

"Ladies and gentlemen, you cannot have it both ways," he said. "We are doing nothing here but making some wonderfully effective speeches about what we are stopping from happening on the Internet, but somebody on the Judiciary Committee must be aware that this is not the case."

House Passes Leach Bil is republished from iGamingNews.com.
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner