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AGA Won't Support Internet Measure

12 March 2002

by David Strow

WASHINGTON -- March 11, 2002 -- Breaking ranks with a former ally, the American Gaming Association said Monday it would oppose an anti-Internet gambling bill now pending before a House subcommittee.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., seeks to impose a comprehensive ban on Internet gambling across the United States. If it passed, it would close the door on any effort by Nevada casinos to operate legal, regulated Internet casinos from Nevada, even if they did not take bets from anywhere in the United States.

Goodlatte's previous efforts had the support of the AGA. But on Monday, AGA Chief Executive Frank Fahrenkopf informed Goodlatte that the casino industry's national lobbying organization was opposed to Goodlatte's latest bill.

The AGA's position on Internet gambling hasn't changed, but Goodlatte's bill has, Fahrenkopf said.

"We're still opposed, but it doesn't mean we'll put our (approval) on any bill that opposes Internet gambling," Fahrenkopf said.

Fahrenkopf cited several concerns with the Goodlatte bill. First was state's rights; the Goodlatte bill would ban all Internet gambling in the United States, even if conducted between states that specifically permitted Internet gambling. Another was an exemption in the bill for pari-mutuel racetrack betting in the Goodlatte bill, which Fahrenkopf argued was unfair to other forms of gambling, such as casinos and Indian gaming.

Finally, Fahrenkopf expressed doubts the bill would do anything to stop illegal Internet gambling in the United States, since only operators of Internet gambling sites, not players, were targeted.

The Goodlatte bill will be considered by the crime subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee this afternoon. It may pass out of that subcommittee, Fahrenkopf said, "but then it's a difficult question."

"Native Americans oppose it, the dog racing industry opposes it, the banks and credit card companies oppose it," Fahrenkopf said. "There is some significant opposition."

The AGA is still considering whether to support an alternate bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, and Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio. This bill specifically bans the use of credit cards, checks or electronic transfers for the purpose of "unlawful Internet gambling."

"We're still reviewing it," Fahrenkopf said. "I told (Oxley) I felt his approach made much more sense on the face of trying to do something about illegal, offshore Internet gambling, because it gets to the mechanism of it. Goodlatte's bill doesn't."

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