Goodlatte’s Bill Approved by Subcommittee

by Lou on May 4, 2006

Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s (R-VA) bill to ban Internet gambling was approved by the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime, and now heads to the full committee for consideration.

Although the bill is a long way from becoming law, and is unlikely to be enacted anytime this year — this year’s session will be short because of upcoming congressional elections — news of the bill’s approval at the subcommittee level was enough to send shares of British gaming companies plummeting. Both PartyGaming and 888 Holdings fell approximately five percent on the London Stock Exchange.

According to Rep. Goodlatte, “Virtual betting parlors have attempted to avoid the application of United States law by locating themselves offshore and out of our jurisdictional reach.”

If enacted, his bill would prohibit gaming businesses from accepting payment in the form of credit cards, checks, wire and Internet transfers.

But don’t fret just yet. If you believe, as I do, that your money is your own and you ought to be able to place a bet or play poker without any interference from the nanny state, take heart:

  • There’s still a long, hard hill to climb before this bill becomes law of the land. It’s bad policy that would lead to bad law. I think Goodlatte’s bill is doomed to failure.
  • It’s unenforceable. US law won’t apply to foreign nations, and other than attempting to police the Internet, I don’t see how the government would enforce any prohibition against using the Internet as a medium for playing poker.
  • While this bill can prevent your local, US-based bank from sending money to your favorite cyber poker casino, there are, and will always be, a sufficient number of financial intermediaries located offshore to handle transfers for you.

What Goodlatte’s bill does do, however, is give certain members of Congress a chance to show that they are opposed to the expansion of gambling in this country, and this, presumably, will endear them to their constituents. Supporting Rep. Goodlatte’s bill then becomes a tool to help them win reelection in November.

Once that’s done, here’s hoping they can come back to the halls of Congress, concentrate on real issues, and stop trying to show everyone that nanny knows best.

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