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Kevin Smith

Rules Committee Pulls Anti-Gambling Language From Sept. 11 Bil

7 October 2004

Congress moved a step closer on Wednesday to passing a bill enacting recommendations from the Sept. 11 commission, and it appears that the interactive gaming industry will remain untouched.

Both the Senate and House have companion bills aimed at passing legislation based on recommendations from the commission's report. On Wednesday the Senate voted 96-2 in favor of its bill, which would create a national intelligence director who would coordinate most of the nation's nonmilitary intelligence agencies and a national counter terrorism center to help fight terrorist plots.

The Senate bill now moves to the House, where both Republican and Democratic leaders have been trying to hammer out the House's version of the Sept. 11 bill (H.R. 10).

Two weeks ago, during a committee markup of the bill, the House Financial Services Committee tacked on I-gaming prohibition language to the bill.

Rep. Michael Oxley, chairman of the Financial Services Committee, added H.R. 2143 (the Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act) which sought to ban credit cards, wire transfers and other instruments of banking in online gaming transactions.

The add-on made it out of committee, which was focusing on anti-money laundering and other "financial industry" portions of the Sept. 11 bill, and was sent to the House Rules Committee, which was tasked with bringing all the different pieces of legislation into one comprehensive bill.

Oxley added his amendment to the bill against the wishes of House Republican leadership. When the Sept. 11 bill reached the Rules Committee this week Oxley's anti-gambling amendment was struck from the bill.

The move is more of a reprieve for the interactive gaming industry than a sign of a change of heart on the I-gaming issue from Republican leaders, according to Washington insiders.

Knowing that getting Republicans and Democrats to agree on the Sept. 11 legislation will be difficult, leadership from both sides of the isle were adamant that the bill remain focused on the commission's recommendations as possible. The commission made no reference in its report to the online gaming industry although Oxley and others continue to make claims that it is a haven for money launderers.

The 9/11 commission contended that the 15 military and civilian intelligence agencies' failure to cooperate precluded an effective defense that might have prevented the 2001 terror attacks on New York City and Washington.

The panel recommended creating a position of national intelligence director to control and coordinate all the agencies. In addition, the commission called for more safeguards at home, such as setting national standards for issuance of drivers' licenses and other identification, improving "no-fly" and other terrorist watch lists and using more biometric identifiers to screen travelers at ports and borders.

High-ranking Republican leaders reportedly told Oxley this week that they support H.R. 2143 but that adding it to the Sept. 11 bill was the wrong approach. They told his staff that it was inappropriate to include it in a bill like H.R. 10 and informed him it would be struck out of the bill during the Rules Committee.

While striking H.R. 2143 from H.R. 10 is a small victory for the interactive gaming industry the battle still wages on. Prohibition of the industry will likely be revisited when Congress reconvenes after the general election in November and there is a small chance that H.R. 2143 could still be introduced before adjournment, which is scheduled for later this month.

"We aren't out of the woods just yet with this session, but we are getting close," said one D.C. insider.

On Thursday, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas told the Associated Press that the Sept. 11 bill he is pushing for in the House is a clear and concise piece of legislation.

"It's real simple," he said. "In the House bill every single word of it will make the American people safer."

Rules Committee Pulls Anti-Gambling Language From Sept. 11 Bil is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith