The Financial Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives today approved a bill that would prohibit online gambling merchants from accepting credit cards, electronic money transfers and a variety of other bank instruments as means of payment from U.S. residents.
The bill, put forth by Rep. James Leach, R-Iowa, passed by a voice vote, meaning the exact vote totals were not recorded.
"The whole idea that it's an invasion of our house is incorrect, because you do have the brains to turn off a machine."
- U.S. Rep. Ron Paul
Leach's press secretary said the bill will go directly to the House floor next for a full House vote, as opposed to the Judiciary Committee for a markup. A Washington insider, who spoke with Interactive Gaming News on the condition of anonymity, said that while Leach's team would like the bill to skip a markup in the Judiciary Committee, he has heard confirmations that F. James Sensenbrenner, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, would like to hold a markup on the bill.
One online gambling industry expert, Frank Catania, president of Catania Consulting and a former New Jersey gaming regulator, said that no matter where the legislation heads next, Congress should still consider the bill introduced yesterday by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., which would create a commission to study the regulation of Internet gaming in the United States.
"Whatever happens, some people still have to realize that no matter what they do, it's not going to work, and what they should be doing is regulating," Catania said. "I think the Conyers-Cannon bill is something they ought to look at more than what they have."
IGN's Washington source said it is unlikely, though, that the Conyers bill will be considered by the House Judiciary Committee, which is the committee that would hold a hearing on it.
During today's markup of the Leach bill, no representatives offered amendments to the bill before it was passed.
Several committee members, before the vote, took time to express opinions about the matter of attempting to prohibit behavior on the Internet. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said the government should not outlaw a behavior simply because people can lose money by doing it.
"On the Internet gambling issue, I am sorry to see this committee show the enthusiasm that it is showing for prohibition," Frank said.
Ron Paul, a Republican representative from Texas, agreed with Frank and suggested that the government legislate neither the gambling nor payment side of the online gambling industry. Paul, who is a Libertarian candidate for president in 2004, said it is not the government's role to make its citizens into better people.
"Once we decide that government's role is to protect us from ourselves, we really open Pandora's box," Paul said.
The idea that Internet gambling brings a casino into people's homes, which what one representative from Alabama said in defense of the Leach bill, means that people are "reneging" on the job of being a parent, Paul said.
"The whole idea that it's an invasion of our house is incorrect, because you do have the brains to turn off a machine," he said.