US House panel clears anti-Internet gambling bill

by Lou on March 16, 2006

The House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday March 15, approved a bill by Jim Leach (R-Iowa) that seeks to prohibit gambling establishments from accepting credit cards, checks, wire transfers, and electronic funds transfers in support of gaming transactions. The bill is aimed squarely at the $12 billion Internet gambling industry, which is located entirely offshore.

Under Leach’s proposed legislation, such prohibitions would include placing bets at online poker sites, and other wagers made or received via the internet in jurisdictions where these bets are illegal under federal or state law. Some exceptions carved out in Leach’s bill include betting on horse races, which is governed under the Interstate Horse Racing Act of 1978, and fantasy sports.

The bill now moves to the House floor for consideration.

According to Rep. Leach, “H.R. 4411 will create strong tools to help federal and state governments enforce existing gambling prohibitions. Unlike in brick-and-mortar casinos in the United States where legal protections for bettors exist and where there are some compensatory social benefit in jobs and tax revenues, Internet gambling sites principally yield only liabilities to Americans.”

Leach’s words appears to be a call of sorts for legislation that would regulate online wagering. But his bill offers no regulatory solution whatsoever. Instead of regulating and taxing a growing, multi-billion dollar business, his approach seeks to eliminate it.

The efforts designed to outlaw online gaming appear to mirror our national effort to outlaw alcohol in an earlier era.

It was a law almost no one supported. It led to the growth of organized crime in this country. And in the end, it was simply repealed.

I’m hoping that this is not one of those lessons of history our nation is doomed to repeat.

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