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Anne Lindner

Tomorrow Could Be the Day

30 September 2002

On Tuesday the U.S. House is expected to vote on--and pass--a bill that would ban Internet gambling in the United States.

Rep. James Leach, R-Iowa, proposed the bill, which would make online gambling illegal by way of preventing anyone in America from paying for it. The bill prohibits I-gaming businesses from accepting credit cards, electronic fund transfers or any other bank instrument as payment for online gambling services.

As the result of an agreement with Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., who also introduced an anti-Internet gambling proposal this year only to have it torn up in committee, the bill would also update the Interstate Wire Act to make it technology-neutral, therefore making it against the law to transmit a bet or wager via other types of technology as opposed to just telephone lines.

HR 556, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act, has been making its way through the House for nearly the last year. A variety of sources confirmed to IGN that it is in fact on the schedule for a hearing before the full House on Tuesday.

The bill, however, will be considered under a suspension of the rules, meaning that it will be voted on after 40 minutes of debate and cannot be amended. It will require a two-thirds majority to pass.

The Las Vegas Review Journal reported today that House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, put the bill on the agenda because of pressure from other Republican leaders, namely House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

Richard Diamond, Armey's spokesman, confirmed to IGN that the congressman hasn't decided which way he will vote on the bill yet, nor has he indicated whether he is for or against Internet gambling.

"He hasn't said yet," Diamond said. "He has concerns about regulating the Internet, so ... his mind is divided on the issue."

Diamond noted that bringing in a bill under a suspension of the rules usually indicates that a bill is non-controversial because it is a way to bring up the bill without having amendments being offered. Last year, Goodlatte's separate bill failed to gain majority support under a suspension of the rules.

John Feehery, Hastert's spokesman, said that if the Leach bill passes, it would indicate wide bipartisan support since it will require such a large majority. The bill is not expected to be voted on along party lines, however. Feehery said Hastert is in favor of banning Internet gambling.

"I think he thinks it's an important step forward," he said. "He thinks it's a good bill and that it will help limit gambling with credit cards and he's worried about the possibility of money laundering with these offshore gambling sites."

A person close to the process who preferred to remain anonymous told IGN the bill will likely pass "overwhelmingly."

"It's going to be pretty big," he said, referring to margin by which he thinks the bill will pass.

The source said the office of Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, has been drumming support for the Leach bill even from groups that have nothing to do with any industry related to Internet gambling. Oxley is chairman of the Financial Services Committee.

"The United States Telephone Association, that is the association for the Baby Bells, sent a letter in support of this," he said. "It has nothing to do with that."

Two weeks ago, the Financial Services announced that a variety of groups--from Morgan Stanley to the National Collegiate Athletic Association--were endorsing the bill.

Notably, credit card associations Visa and MasterCard have not voiced support of the bill. Neither has the American Gaming Association.

A spokeswoman for the AGA today told IGN that she is not aware of the AGA stance regarding the bill, nor is she aware of what the results were from an AGA membership poll regarding support for the Leach bill.

If the bill passes the House, it will go to the Senate for consideration. If it passes the Senate, the President will decide whether or not to sign it into law. Congress can override a president's decision not to sign a bill by voting on it again and passing it with a larger majority.

Tomorrow Could Be the Day is republished from
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner