Another Day, Another Stumbling Block

13 June 2002

A committee of the U.S. House of Representatives today failed to pass an amendment that would provide an exemption for Internet gambling on dog races and jai alai in Rep. Bob Goodlatte's, R-Va., anti-Internet gambling bill.

The amendment, nicknamed the "Who Left the Dogs Out" measure, was offered by Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla. As the nickname implies, numerous other carve-outs have already been attached to Goodlatte's bill, including exemptions for horse racing and lotteries to be able to offer Internet gambling between states where the practice is legalized.

"For the Congress of the United States to play Big Brother, there's no explainable reason."

-Rep. Robert Wexler

Goodlatte's bill, the "Combating Illegal Gambling Reform and Modernization Act," aims to update the 1961 Interstate Wire Act to make Internet gambling illegal in the United States. According to Goodlatte, his bill targets offshore Internet gambling operations and not Internet gambling that takes place between states where laws have been passed making it legal.

The Judiciary Committee addressed the bill today, after weeks of scheduling it and then postponing it.

The dogs and jai alai amendment was defeated by a tie vote of 15-15.

A number of other representatives planned to introduce amendments to Goodlatte's bill today, but the mark-up session ended before all the amendments could be considered. The bill will probably be taken up again next week, a Washington, D.C. insider said.

Next up on the amendments list is a proposal from Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, who is planning to propose that all of the bill's current amendments be stripped, therefore making the bill hostile to several influential lobbying groups representing horse racing, lotteries and casinos.

The amendments to Goodlatte's bill have proved to be contentious. On one side, IGN's Capitol Hill contact said, Goodlatte is getting pressure from major sections of the U.S. gambling industry to allow them to operate Internet gambling sites. Adding amendments to please those industries offends those who supported the bill because it was anti-gambling. On the other hand, industries that aren't favored with carve-outs are opposing the bill by calling it unfair.

"[Goodlatte's] getting beat on one side by Cannon, for having too many carve-outs, and getting heat by Wexler and Barney Frank (D-Mass.) for not letting enough people gamble," the insider said.

Wexler said he introduced the dog racing and jai alai amendment because he thinks it is unfair for those businesses to be excluded from the bill. "If we pass this bill, at the end of the game horse track betting will be able to occur on the Internet, but you won't be able to do dog track betting on the Internet, and you won't be able to do jai alai betting on the Internet," he said.

"I've got them all in my area, I want them all to succeed," he continued later. "For the Congress of the United States to play Big Brother, there's no explainable reason."

Later in the session, Rep. Frank made it known that he dislikes the bill, saying that discussion of it makes him miss talking about antiterrorism measures, which the committee had been doing immediately before taking up the Goodlatte bill. Frank said he planned to vote "for any amendment that will let more people gamble, and then I will vote against the whole bill."

"If American citizens, or legal resident aliens, want to gamble, let them," he said. "Who cares?"

Anne Lindner can be reached at