Rep. Bob Goodlatte's Internet gambling bill received a potentially mortal wound in the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee today.
At a 10 a.m. mark-up meeting, the committee voted to delete the bill's carve outs that would have allowed for horse race wagering, casino gambling and lotteries to take place on the Internet. Washington, D.C., sources say the move will make the bill virtually unsupportable in Congress.
One insider said that without the support of the American Gaming Association and the horse racing industry, the bill has about a 10 percent chance of being put to a vote before the full House.
"If he's going to go down the road of regulating the Internet, to ban some sort of behavior that everyone seems to abhor, then let's make it an actual prohibition act and not make this an act that picks winners and losers in the gambling marketplace."
-Spokesman for Rep. Chris Cannon
"Without those two pieces of the little coalition he's cobbled together," another source said, "I don't see how he could bring that bill successfully to the floor. Certainly given the time frame in Congress and all the other things they have to deal with, the prospects of getting it done are…dim."
Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia, introduced his bill, HR 3215, with the hope of banning Internet gambling in the United States by way of updating the Interstate Wire Act of 1961. Since he proposed the bill on Nov. 1, 2001, it has been amended several times to include carve outs for horse race wagering, lotteries and casino gambling.
The amendment to shed the bill's exemptions for key gambling interest groups was proposed by Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah. Ironically, the man who introduced the amendment that could defeat the Goodlatte bill is from a state that prohibits any kind of gambling.
Before the committee addressed Cannon's amendment, it voted on an amendment from Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va. Scott proposed that the bill hold individual gamblers liable for Internet gambling violations instead of the companies that operate Internet gambling sites. His amendment was defeated in a 12-12 tie vote. The committee also debated an amendment from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, to allow charities to offer Internet gambling. That amendment was also defeated.
The chairman of the committee, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., asked for the Cannon amendment to be split into two parts, one striking the casino carve out and the other striking the horse racing and lottery carve outs. The horse and lottery section was approved by a vote of 18-9. The casino section was approved by 15-9. Sensenbrenner voted for the horse and lottery section but against the casino section. One source said it was highly unusual for the chairman of the committee, who is of the same party as Goodlatte, to vote in favor of either part of Cannon's amendment.
"He showed absolutely no loyalty to Goodlatte today at the mark up," the source said.
A spokesman for Cannon said Cannon offered the amendment because the bill, which originally was supposed to halt Internet gambling, was rife with opportunities for established gambling industries to offer online wagering.
"If he's going to go down the road of regulating the Internet, to ban some sort of behavior that everyone seems to abhor, then let's make it an actual prohibition act and not make this an act that picks winners and losers in the gambling marketplace," the spokesman said.
The committee also voted 18-12 to report the bill to the full House. Despite the addition of the Cannon amendment, Goodlatte issued a press release expressing optimism for the bill's prospects.
"We are pleased to have reported such a strong bill out of the Judiciary Committee and look forward to working with the House leadership to bring this bill to the floor for a vote," he said in the release.
Cannon's spokesman said even though Cannon's amendment was passed, Cannon still has reservations about the Goodlatte bill, namely enforcement of it. Cannon is wary of regulating the Internet through the financial services and ISPs.
"He really hates the idea of putting any burden on the ISPs to try to deputize them and get them to take down hyper links and comply with court orders," the spokesman said.
"He, being from Utah, can agree that gambling can be prohibited," the spokesman later continued. "But how to do it is the million dollar question. He doesn’t think we have the answer in this bill."