Congress to resume their session; let’s get ready to rumble

by Lou on August 31, 2006

With the U.S. Senate scheduled to reconvene next week, opponents of HR 4411, a measure that restricts Internet gambling by Americans and burdens the private sector with unmanageable reporting requirements, are gearing up for a fight.

Small and big bankers alike stand opposed to HR 4411
It’s not only poker players who stand in opposition to this bill. The Independent Community Bankers of America, an advocacy group representing 5,000 small community banks, says it would be difficult, if not impossible, for banks to police electronic payments to casinos because the transfers are not coded to show what type of business is on the receiving end.

The banks are also unable to prevent physical checks from being employed to move money into gaming accounts, though the proposed law might require them to do so. Banks would need to constantly update names of online casino operations in order to comply with the law.

Laura Fisher, a spokeswoman for American Bankers Association, the organization representing the nation’s major banks, said that any decision to require the blocking of electronic payments and checks would be onerous. “You are talking about manually checking 40 billion checks a year for the payee and making an assessment of whether it’s for an Internet gambling site or restaurant.”

So does the US Chamber of Commerce
In addition, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business advocacy group, in a recent letter to U.S. senators, expressed concern about deputizing banks “to enforce social policy.”

Ellen Zimiles, chief executive of New York-based Daylight Forensic & Advisory, which advises banks on regulatory compliance said that HR 4411, “… would be extremely challenging, and it would take their efforts away from all the other things they’re trying to do right now,” such as helping authorities flag terrorist financing.

According to Ms. Zimiles, “it is already difficult for banks to identify electronic transfers involving people and groups that are on government lists of known terrorists and drug dealers. Besides overhauling their systems to block online gambling payments, the banks would need constantly updated lists of names of known online casino operations. If they’re not given exact names to look for, it’s a needle in a haystack.”

And politics does make for unusual alliances
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass, a liberal democrat, in a statement reminiscent of what one would have expected from the late Barry Goldwater, the father of the conservative movement, was quoted as saying, “What kind of social, cultural authoritarianism are we practicing here? The fundamental principle of the autonomy of the individual is at stake.”

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