Internet Gambling Prohibition Act introduced

by Lou on February 18, 2006

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. recently introduced the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, a bill designed to clarify existing law and give the Department of Justice greater authority to prosecute.

Although anti-gaming activists claim the Federal Wire Act of 1961 technically makes online gaming illegal in the United States, the Department of Justice has been reluctant to prosecute violators because language in the law only addresses telephone lines and cables, not satellite, microwave and other forms of wireless communication.

Goodlatte’s bill is aimed at strengthening the Federal Wire Act to include wireless technology and the prohibition of gambling. Adherents claim it provides for greater restrictions and gives the DOJ more authority to prosecute illegal Internet gambling.

This bill seems very similar to a bill Goodlatte introduced five years ago that was defeated, ironically enough, in part through the efforts of discredited lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The earlier Goodlatte’s bill would have made it illegal to gamble online while providing law enforcement the wherewithal to put the kibosh on funding transfers to online gaming sites via credit card. But since most of the credit card companies already prohibit transfers and payments to internet gambling sites, that issue is moot.

It’s difficult to see how a bill could be structured to stop foreign based fiscal intermediaries such as Neteller from processing these transfers, since they are not bound by US law. It’s also difficult to imagine that law enforcement agencies have the resources to go after individuals who are playing poker online.

From a police perspective, enforcing this kind of legislation is expensive, and a low priority when it comes to the priorities law enforcement has to make when they consider how best to deploy their sworn officers. It also carries with it the potential to make law enforcement personnel look as foolish as they do when they periodically raid some poker game at a senior citizen’s home. If I were a Chief of Police, enforcing a law like this is the last thing I’d want to do, because busting people playing poker online does nothing to prevent crime and provide public safety.

As this bill progresses through Congress, I’ll keep tabs on it and keep you all current via my blog.

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