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Anne Lindner
 

Leach Offers Prohibition Bill on Opening Day

8 January 2003

The 108th session of the U.S. Congress began yesterday, and Rep. James Leach, R-Iowa, wasted no time introducing a bill that would make online gambling illegal.

A spokeswoman for Leach said the text of the bill is virtually the same as that of H.R. 556, the prohibition bill passed by the House of Representatives on Oct. 1.


The Financial Services Committee will probably address the Leach bill in either January or February.

Leach's camp does not have any information on when H.R. 21, the version that Leach introduced Tuesday, will go to committee. A Washington, D.C. source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the bill will likely be a priority for the House Financial Services Committee.

"It's expected to be among the first bills that the House Financial Services Committee considers this year," he said.

Leach's spokeswoman said putting an end to online gambling in the United States is something the he believes in strongly.

"I would say this is one of our top priorities," she said. "The Congressman has been working on this for quite some time and believes in the validity of it passing."

The bill, as it was introduced yesterday, has 14 original sponsors and is expected to gain more. IGN's inside source said the Financial Services Committee will probably address the bill in either January or February. He said the committee will either hold a hearing about the bill to gain publicity or mark it up without a hearing just to get the process moving faster.

"If they go straight to a markup, it could be really soon," he said.

The bill would work by making it illegal for online gambling Web sites to accept payment in the form of credit cards, wire transfers or any other bank instrument from U.S. players. Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, who is chairman of the Financial Services Committee, said online gambling harms American families and should be stopped.

"Internet gambling provides financial criminals an opportunity to hide ill-gotten gains," he said in a press release. "The bill protects families and gives terrorists one less place to hide their illicit funds. This legislation is an essential protection for the American family, one that Congress should approve without delay."

During the last session of Congress, H.R. 556 gained support from a variety of Christian and family groups. In a press release, Leach also made an appeal to protection of families as a reason for putting a stop to Internet gambling. He also referenced an alleged connection between online betting and wagering and terrorism.

"These unregulated gambling sites are a direct pipeline of dollars out of the United States into virtually unknown hands," he said. "This factor makes the financial services industry vulnerable to criminal and terrorist activity and American citizens vulnerable to identity theft and other personal scams. Internet gambling serves no legitimate purpose in our society and is a danger to family and society at large."

The bill was co-sponsored by 11 Republicans and three Democrats. The Republicans are Reps. Michael Oxley, Spencer T. Bachus, Ala.; Sue Kelly, N.Y; Paul Gillmor, Ohio; Bob Goodlatte, Va.; Mike Rogers, Mich.; Charles W. "Chip" Pickering, Miss.; Charlie Norwood, Ga.; Frank Wolf, Va.; Tom Osborne, Neb.; and Joseph Pitts, Pa.

The Democrats who support it are Rep. Marion Berry, Ark.; John Spratt, S.C.; and Rick Boucher, Va.

The bill that passed the House last year was a combination of Leach's original bill, which aimed to block all payment mechanisms for online gambling, and a bill put forth by Goodlatte, which aimed to stop Internet gambling by way of updating the 1961 Interstate Wire Act. Goodlatte's bill died in the Judiciary Committee last year. The combination bill passed the House but was never voted on in the Senate.

IGN's Washington contact said the bill appears almost unstoppable in the House.

"I don't think there's any way to keep it from passing the House, but I think there are still things that could happen to it in the Senate," he said.

To view H.R. 21, the bill that Leach introduced Tuesday, click here.

Leach Offers Prohibition Bill on Opening Day is republished from iGamingNews.com.
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner