A Legislative History of the Prohibition Movement on Capitol Hil

14 March 2002
The recent movement in Washington to prohibit Internet gambling is the latest of several. Following is a timeline of prohibition bills introduced in the past six years.

December 1995 Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., introduces his Internet Gambling Prohibition Act (S.1495), a bill that would bring the Interstate Wire Act (a law that makes it illegal to accept wagers over state or interstate borders using wire communications facilities) up to date to include Internet gambling. The bill is read twice and referred to the Committee on Judiciary, where it dies.

February 1997

Sen. Kyl reintroduces the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act. The bill, S.474, like the first version, includes penalties for operators of Internet gambling services as well as casual gamblers.

September 1997

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., introduces HR 2380, the House version of the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act.

July 1998

The Kyl bill is piggybacked onto an appropriations bill, which passes on a 90-10 vote.

August 1998

Reps. Goodlatte and Bill McCollum, R-Fla., introduce a House version (HR 4427) of the bill passed in the Senate.

October 1998

S.474 dies when the 105th Congress comes to a close without a House version passing.

March 1999

For the third consecutive legislative session, Sen. Kyl introduces his Internet Gambling Prohibition Act. This version, S.692, is vastly different from S.474. Most notably, the "casual bettor" provision has been dropped. Further, the latest version includes exemptions for intrastate betting, fantasy sports, pari-mutuel betting, the broadcasting of betting information and state lotteries. The new exemptions appease gambling interest groups, but result in a new opposition made up of anti-betting groups.

June 1999

S.692 is reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, although a number of concerns are voiced. Most notably, provisions that hold ISPs responsible for online gambling activity are heavily criticized. Additionally, the Justice Department questions the enforceability of the bill. Indian gaming groups push for exemptions as well.

October 1999

Rep. Goodlatte reintroduces his prohibition bill in the House (HR 3125). The bill, like the Kyl bill, is opposed by anti-gaming groups and the Indian gaming industry.

November 1999

S.692 is included in a "stacked unanimous consent bill," which is passed with a three-person voice vote after no debate.

May 2000

Reps. James Leach, R-Iowa and John LaFalce, D-N.Y., introduce HR 4419, a bill that would prohibit the use of credit cards, debit cards, checks, bank drafts or electronic transfers to place bets, collect winnings or conduct gambling activities on the Internet. The bill bounces from committee to committee and is passed in the House Banking Committee, but never makes it to a full House vote.

July 2000

The House votes 245-159 in favor of passing HR 3125, but because Goodlatte opted to bring the bill up for a vote without floor debate, the bill needed 61 percent of the votes (269 votes) to pass.

July 2000

With HR 3125 in limbo, the Justice Department introduces a prohibition bill of its own: HR 5020, the Comprehensive Internet Gambling Prohibition Act of 2000. Sponsored by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the bill simply aims to extend the Wire Wager Act (USC 18-1084) to prohibit Internet gambling. It includes none of the exemptions included in the Goodlatte and Kyl bills. The bill is referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary and goes no further.

February 2001

Rep. Leach reintroduces his Internet gambling funding bill. HR 556, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act, is referred to House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime in February, but hasn't seen action since. The Leach bill is discussed during House hearings in July, although no action is taken.

July 2001

Rep. LaFalce introduces HR 2579, the Federal Internet Gambling Payments Prohibition Act. Similar to the Leach/LaFalce bill introduced in 2000, the new LaFalce bill has more teeth than Leach's 2001 funding prohibition bill, which includes a handful of new exemptions. HR 2579 is referred to the House Judiciary Committee in July and to the Subcommittee on Crime in August, where it remains dormant.

October 2001

Rep. Leach's Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act is piggybacked onto the House Anti-Terrorism Bill as part of the bill's money laundering provisions. The money laundering section is dropped from the full bill and taken up as a separate piece of legislation. That bill, the Financial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001, passes but not before the Leach provision is removed.

October 2001

Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, and Rep. LaFalce re-introduce HR 556 as a stand-alone bill.

November 2001

Rep. Goodlatte introduces the "Combating Illegal Gambling Reform and Modernization Act." The bill is aimed at updating the 1961 Federal Wire Act to include Internet gambling as unlawful. Goodlatte hopes to update the law to get rid of gray areas caused by the Internet and other modern technology.

March 2002

By a voice vote, the House Subcommittee on Crime agrees to favorably report the Combating Illegal Gambling Reform and Modernization Act (HR 3125) to the full Judiciary Committee. Of particular significance is the fact that the American Gaming Association has withdrawn its support of the bill because the new version includes exemptions for certain types of gambling, but not casino gambling.