A New Prohibition Bill Emerges in the House

20 May 2003

The U.S. House Financial Services Committee today voted to report favorably a new version of the Leach Internet gambling bill that lacks the former bill's civil and criminal penalties.

The new bill, HR 2143, was introduced yesterday by Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala. It was put forth as a challenge to the version of the Leach bill that was reported favorably last week by the Judiciary Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Judiciary Committee, some said, had driven a stake through the heart of HR 21, Leach's bill. The committee approved an amendment, offered by Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, that removed the bill's carve-outs for the horse racing, dog racing, lottery and casino industries.

The purpose of Leach's bill is to eradicate illegal Internet gambling by disallowing merchants from accepting credit card, debit card or other bank-sanctioned transactions as payment for online gambling. The bill would, however, allow online gambling in states that license it. It was widely believed that the Cannon amendment would alienate many lobbying groups and therefore hurt the Leach bill's chances in the full House.

Bachus' version of the bill does not contain the Cannon amendment. Because it lacks the previous bill's civil and criminal penalties, it could go straight to the House for a vote, bypassing the Judiciary Committee entirely.

Having two competing versions of the anti-online gambling bill means the process of passing or rejecting the bill will slow, said an industry expert who spoke to IGN on the condition of anonymity.

"It's certainly going to be a while before the bill hits the floor," the source said.

The Financial Services Committee heard no arguments on Bachus' bill, and it passed in about 30 seconds, said Scott Duncan, the assistant communications director for the Committee.

The Leach bill passed the Judiciary Committee last Wednesday. During the markup, Cannon said he proposed his amendment because he feared the bill might result in gambling being allowed within the borders of Utah. Currently no forms of gambling are legal in that state. The committee passed his bill by a 16-15 vote.

Click here to view a copy of the Bachus bill.

Anne Lindner can be reached at anne@rivercitygroup.com.