Bill to ban gambling at online casinos gets another chance in
the United States
Online Casinos are looking at tough times in the
near future if a Virginia congressman gets his way. The US House
Judiciary Committee will mark up a bill introduced by Rep. Robert W.
Goodlatte (R) that would ban almost all of online casinos, including
bets on sporting events at online casinos and games of chance -- namely
poker, which has enjoyed a boom in recent years with the proliferation
of thousands of online casinos on the internet. The online casinos
legislation could get an unexpected boost from the Jack Abramoff
scandal. The disgraced lobbyist was key to blocking one of Goodlatte's
three previous attempts to ban online casinos, and backlash over
corruption charges could help the current online casinos effort. The
bill would update the Federal Wire Wager Act, which prohibits gambling
over telephone lines but may not apply to online casinos because not all
Web traffic travels over phone lines. It also would force banks to block
transactions related to online casinos and would empower law enforcement
agencies to force Internet service providers to remove or disable links
to online casinos.
"I am a big advocate of opening up the Internet to all kinds
of legitimate uses," said Goodlatte, who is co-chairman of the Congressional
Internet Caucus. "But we don't want the Internet to become the Wild West of the
21st century." Goodlatte said he opposes online casinos and gambling in general
because it leads to "a whole host of ills in society." The bill effectively
would prevent state lotteries from taking their games online like online
casinos, because technology does not exist to keep gambling within a state.
Fantasy sports leagues would be exempt. Goodlatte said his bill is neutral on
parimutuel horse wagering, which has an online component that is the cause of an
ongoing struggle between Congress and the Justice Department.
The legislative fight over an earlier version of Goodlatte's
bill was at the center of the Abramoff lobbying scandal, which led to guilty
pleas by Abramoff and four former associates, including three former
congressional aides. Abramoff's client, a gambling services company, opposed the
bill, and the lobbyist funneled $50,000 of the client's money to the wife of a
key aide to former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.). The aide, Tony
Rudy, pleaded guilty to charges that he conspired with Abramoff to corrupt
public officials and defraud his clients. Questions about DeLay's role
contributed to DeLay's decision to leave Congress.
The current online casinos bill is backed by religious groups such as the
Southern Baptist Convention, professional sports leagues such as the NFL and
online-auction giant eBay Inc. On the other side are members of Congress from
casino-supported Nevada, who introduced rival legislation; casinos; an
organization of small banks that says its members do not have the manpower to
block all gambling transactions, even at online casinos; and a group that hopes
not to get dealt out, the Poker Players Alliance.