Editorial: The Truth about the Leach Bil

30 April 2003

Why does everyone seem to be painting the Leach bill as prohibitionist?

Here is a question I put to a senior Congressional Counsel (close to Leach):

"Please correct me if I am wrong... As I understand it, the Leach bill is NOT prohibitionist; it simply restricts money flows across state lines. If a state wanted to run a wholly intrastate online gambling service, it could do so. That is, the operator, and the users (and the regulator) would have to all be in the one state."

The reply:

"Your interpretation of the bill is correct"

It simply doesn't get any more black and white than that.

HR 21 clearly puts online gambling into the hands of the legislature that has responsibility for police powers and for social order, usually on the basis that there is a net public benefit. It also means that the people can vote--as they do now--on whether they want to allow (or deny) expanded gambling within their jurisdictions.

The Leach bill simply ensures that (at least as far as the United States is concerned) the sovereignty of the states is not breached by other U.S. states (or non-U.S. states) by means at the disposal of the federal government.

That really sounds like democracy hard at work. In fact, it is arguably more progressive than Australia's Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (though to be fair, Australia's federal government has never legislated to restrict cross-border anything). This, of course, is also known as "jurisdictional integrity."

The questions, then, follow:

Why is the Leach Bill not a satisfactory outcome? Is it that the whole online gambling industry is predicated on greed and piracy? Is it that online gambling does not believe that it cannot garner support from voters for intrastate online gaming? That it cannot pay the price that might be demanded on it to provide intrastate gambling?

Tim Ryan is a graduate of Agricultural Science, though he is probably best described as an innovator. He has worked in consumer online information and transaction systems since their inception and was the Australian pioneer of television data broadcast and is still the Consultant General Manager of the Seven Network’s teletext and datacast services – the principal provider of real time wagering information in Australia. Tim was an innovator of integrated wagering information and transaction systems. He has also consulted to a number of wagering system developers on the internationalisation of their systems. Tim became a NSW licensed bookmaker early in 2000 for regulatory reasons associated with the development of wagering systems. Despite not being a ‘working’ bookmaker Tim was appointed to the Australian Registered Bookmakers Advisory Council, Australia’s peak body representing all its 800 bookmakers. In this capacity he was instrumental in lobbying the independent Senators and the Government to ensure the exclusion of wagering from the Interactive Gambling Act.