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Anne Lindner

The Real Purpose of the Bachus Bill?

23 May 2003

The I-gaming bill introduced by Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., on Tuesday will likely never become law, but it could ease the way for anti-Internet gaming legislation in the Senate.

The Bachus bill, HR 2143, was reported favorably to the House of Representatives after a short markup in the Financial Services Committee Tuesday morning. The bill's text is basically the same as that of HR 21, the I-gaming bill introduced by Rep. James Leach, R-Iowa, except that it contains none of the civil and criminal penalties that HR 21 does.

"[The Bachus bill] seems to be a pretty clear attempt to revisit [prohibition] without letting the Judiciary Committee look at the bill, that seems to be pretty obvious."
- Meghan Riding
Press Officer for US Rep. Chris Cannon

The purpose of leaving out the penalties is so that the Bachus bill won't fall under the jurisdiction of the House Judiciary Committee. That committee's membership includes several House members, such as Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, who could lessen the bill's chances of passing by amending it.

Many industry experts believe the amendment offered by Cannon last week in the Judiciary Committee's markup of HR 21 severely hurt the bill. Cannon's amendment, which was approved with a margin of only one vote, stripped the bill of its carve-outs for many gambling industry sub-groups, like the horse racing industry.

In fact, after the Judiciary Committee finished with HR 21, Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association, said his lobbying group was less likely to lend its considerable support toward the bill's passage.

While industry insiders say it's not yet clear what stance gambling lobbying groups such as the AGA and various horse racing, dog racing and lottery groups will take toward the Bachus bill, a spokeswoman for Cannon said the representative has the same problems with the Bachus bill as he did with HR 21 before it was amended by the Judiciary Committee.

"It seems to be a pretty clear attempt to revisit the issue without letting the Judiciary Committee look at the bill, that seems to be pretty obvious," said Meghan Riding, a press officer for Cannon. "As far as Mr. Cannon's concerns with the bill, those are still concerns that he has; that has not changed."

Riding said Cannon has not looked at the Bachus bill and that it was likely that some members of the Judiciary Committee will oppose the bill on the House floor, should it get there.

"I would presume there would still be some members that would still have some concerns about it, some of the members who had some concerns similar to Mr. Cannon's," she said.

Ron Platt, the senior director of government affairs for Greenberg Traurig, said that if Chairman Michael G. Oxley, the leader of the Financial Services Committee, wants the Bachus bill to be brought up, he might have to do so under regular order, at which point the Rules Committee would decide what amendments would be attached to the bill. Whatever happens, Platt said, the Cannon amendment has put a damper HR 21's movement through the House.

"I think right now, in our talks with the people in the Hill, it's a little unclear as to what's going to happen and when," Platt said. "This whole thing, the activities the last couple of weeks, have certainly slowed down what was an attempt by Chairman Oxley to pass the bill on suspension before the Memorial Day recess."

Platt said Oxley's plan regarding the Bachus bill is to simply put legislation forward that can pass the House. He's betting that similar legislation, S 627, which was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., in March, will pass the Senate. When members of both chambers meet to hammer out the differences in the two bills, they can simply use the civil and criminal penalties in the Kyl bill.

"I think what he expects to do is to be able to try to get this bill through the House and then wait for the Senate to pass the Kyl bill, assuming, and he evidently does, that the Kyl bill will pass or get to the floor for a vote, and that it itself wouldn't be amended at some stage...Assuming that the Kyl bill passes, he would simply recede to the Senate bill, which has the civil and criminal penalties in it," Platt said.

There had been talk in the Senate Banking Committee about marking up the Kyl bill in May, but that has been postponed, Platt said. He said he would not be surprised if it was marked up in that committee in June.

"They're saying June, but there's nothing concrete yet," Platt said.

The civil and criminal penalties that were eliminated from the Leach bill to form the Bachus bill include statements that U.S. district courts can pursue a preliminary injunction or an injunction against a person to prevent or restraint illegal Internet gambling. The bill also states that those who transgress the I-gaming law can be fined and imprisoned for a maximum of five years.

The Real Purpose of the Bachus Bill? is republished from
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner