Conyers, Leach Bills Could See Action Soon

29 January 2003

Members of both sides of the debate on Internet gambling are vowing to take action soon in the U.S. House of Representatives.

On the first day of the 108th session of Congress, Jan. 7, Rep. James Leach, R-Iowa, introduced a bill that would prohibit online gambling. The bill is almost identical to HR 556, the bill he introduced last year, which ended up being passed by the House by a voice vote.

Leach's new bill, HR 21, would make Internet gambling illegal by virtually all payment mechanisms that players use to finance their online gaming. Credit cards, wire transfers and all other bank instruments would become illegal for online gaming merchants to accept from U.S. players.

A source from within the legislative process, who spoke to IGN on the condition of anonymity, said Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, who is the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, would like to put the Leach bill on the suspension calendar. If that happens, the bill would go directly to the House floor, with no committee markups, and would be subjected to limited debate. To pass, it would need a two-thirds majority of the vote.

Oxley may have a hard time getting the bill heard on suspension because such a move would likely be blocked by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., who are both opposed to the Leach bill.

"We think Oxley is going to have a hard time getting the bill on suspension," the source said. "(Frank and Oxley) would fight the suspension and kill it."

A press officer for the Financial Services Committee said the Leach bill "is one of our priorities for the year and we expect to take it up as quickly as we can."

Meanwhile, Conyers is planning to reintroduce a bill he first offered last in the last session of Congress. Conyers' bill aims to establish a commission to study Internet gambling to see if there is a way to regulate it in the United States.

Kriston Alford, a representative from Conyers' office, said his bill will be introduced in the House in early February.

The bill that Conyers introduced on Nov. 19 called for a five-member committee that would take a close look at possible ways to make online gambling safe and legal for U.S. players. At the time, Conyers said his approach "would be more effective at weeding out bad actors and creating protections and safeguards in cyberspace that exist in brick-and-mortar casinos."

The version that Conyers is expected to introduce soon is expected to be similar to last year's.

Anne Lindner can be reached at