AGA Thorn Enters Goodlatte's Side

12 March 2002

A day before the House Committee on the Judiciary's subcommittee on Crime met to mark up a proposed bill that would amend the Federal Wire Act to cover Internet Gambling, the American Gaming Association (AGA) voiced its opposition.

The AGA's president, Frank Fahrenkopf, sent a three-page letter yesterday to Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., outlining the group's complaints with the bill.

The association supported a similar bill introduced two years ago by Goodlatte, but doesn't approve changes added to the latest version. It's a major shift for the American casino industry's biggest lobbying group, and gives Internet gaming a strong ally in Washington.

"This (the new version of the Goodlatte Bill) isn't the same bill," Fahrenkopf said. "Last time we were supportive of it, but this is a totally different bill. Goodlatte totally redid the bill and we feel that he changed it to the detriment of the commercial casino industry."

The AGA's biggest complaint is that it violates state's rights by preventing two states that want to have Internet gambling from doing so. The current language of the bill would allow for states to regulate Internet gambling if they wish, but only allow it within their boundaries and not with another state that allows it.

That doesn't sit well with Fahrenkopf.

"We think that is a fundamental state's rights issue," he said.

The AGA has joined a growing list of groups opposed to the Goodlatte bill because of its selectiveness towards the entire gaming community.

"This legislation grants Internet gambling jurisdiction to the horseracing industry but nobody else," Fahrenkopf said. "Horseracing can use it, but dog racing can't, jai alai can't, the Indians can't and we (the casino industry) can't. It has always been a rule that everyone is going to be treated equally."

Fahrenkopf said the AGA is still undecided on whether it will support a bill proposed by Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa. The Leach Bill would ban all banking instruments, such as credit cards, checks and wire transfers, from being used in gambling on the Internet.

"Other bills pending action may well serve as a better vehicle for enacting needed updates to federal law in the area of wire or wireless gambling transactions," Fahrenkopf said, referring to the Leach Bill.

An encouraging sign for those groups opposed to the Goodlatte Bill is Fahrenkopf's commitment to lobbying against it; he said that he and other AGA officials would take an active role in trying to defeat it. This, he said, will be a challenge.

"It is going to be close," he said, "and we expect a long and hard battle."

Click here to read a copy of Fahrenkopf's letter.