U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., today introduced a bill that would create a U.S. commission to study the legalization of online gambling. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., meanwhile, is planning to launch legislation either Thursday or Monday that would prohibit Internet gambling in the United States.
The currently numberless Conyers bill, called the Internet Gambling Licensing and Regulation Act, is a reprisal of the legislation he introduced late in the last Congressional session.
"Just as outlawing alcohol did not work in the 1920s, current attempts to prohibit online gaming will not work, either."
- US Rep. John Conyers
The Kyl bill, although not yet introduced, will be topic of a Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs hearing on March 18 at 10 a.m. EST. A spokesman for Kyl said the senator does not have to introduce his bill before the hearing takes place.
Reps. Chris Cannon, R-Utah; Shelley Berkely, D-Nev.; and Joe Baca, D-Calif., are co-sponsoring the Conyers bill.
When announcing his bill, Conyers compared the prohibition of Internet gambling with the U.S. prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s.
"Today, Congress is rushing to pass a similar ill-conceived prohibition of Internet gambling," Conyers said. "Gaming prohibitionists believe they can stop the millions of Americans who gamble online by prohibiting the use of credit cards to gamble on the Internet. Just as outlawing alcohol did not work in the 1920s, current attempts to prohibit online gaming will not work, either."
According to IGN's source in Washington, D.C., the Kyl bill will be very similar to the bill put forth by Rep. James Leach, R-Iowa. Leach's bill would prohibit any online gambling operator from accepting a bank instrument such as a credit card or electronic fund transfer as payment for online gambling by a U.S. citizen. Leach's bill will be marked up by the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee at 10 a.m. EST Thursday.
Conyers' bill states that online gambling is something that millions of Americans do, and that "federal statutes governing placement of wagers are contradictory and confusing, and they do not adequately address the issues involved with gambling over the Internet." It also takes into account the fact that because of borderless nature of the Internet, legislative attempts to curb online gambling "are unlikely to be effective, and may adversely impact Americans' rights to due process and individual privacy."
The commission Conyers seeks to create would be made of five members, to be appointed by the leaders of the House and Senate. The act mandates that the appointments must be made within 60 days after the act becomes law. It also requires that the first commission meeting take place within 30 days of the appointment of the last commissioner or within 30 days of the commission getting appropriated funds, whichever date is later.
"Plain common sense tells us that consumers who gamble online should be entitled to the same safeguards that apply to consumers who walk into a traditional casino."
- Rick Smith
Interactive Gaming Council
The commission would be charged with conducting a study into the existing ways in which online gambling is regulated and the issues involved with the industry. Issues the commission will need to take into account include the use of credit cards for online gambling, the impact of legal gambling on minors and those with gambling addiction, the possibility of online gambling being used for money laundering and an assessment of the ways different European Union countries regulate online gambling.
A report from the commission would be due no later than one year after the group's first meeting. The act then calls for the commission to propose changes to federal law regarding Internet gambling within six months of submitting the report.
Conyers said that if Internet gambling were regulated by the U.S. government, there would be less incentive for underground operators and "unscrupulous merchants" to offer online gambling services to Americans. He also said the industry could generate more tax revenue for the states.
The Michigan Democrat also said it would set a dangerous precedent if the U.S. government regulated what Web sites Americans can use.
"We should not head down this road now," he said. "If we do, we'll be joining countries like Iraq, China and other totalitarian regimes who limit their citizens' access to the Internet."
The Interactive Gaming Council today applauded Conyers' ideas.
"Rep. Conyers' bill is the most rational response yet seen from the U.S. Congress regarding Internet gambling," said Rick Smith, the executive director of the IGC. "Plain common sense tells us that consumers who gamble online should be entitled to the same safeguards that apply to consumers who walk into a traditional casino."
Click here to view a copy of the 2003 Conyers bill.