The American Gaming Association officially put its sizable lobbying power behind Rep. Bob Goodlatte's Internet gambling prohibition bill on Wednesday.
Frank Fahrenkopf, the president of the AGA, said the organization decided to support the bill because Goodlatte, R-Va., made two crucial changes to it. Goodlatte and the AGA had been working together to word the bill in such a way that the association would be able to support it.
First the bill was amended to allow Nevada sports books to take horse race wagers from bettors in other states. Horse race wagers in Nevada are placed into and taken out of a common pool. Second, the bill now would allow residents of all states that could potentially allow Internet gambling to gambling on the same sites.
"We had indicated to Congressman Goodlatte about a month ago that we couldn't support his bill because we thought it was a violation of states rights, and we were concerned that something that we're doing now legally now in Nevada, common pool wagering, would have been made illegal by the bill," Fahrenkopf said. "And he agreed to changes that satisfied our concerns."
Fahrenkopf said that without the intrastate online gambling provision, the bill would be unconstitutional.
"You've got to fundamentally remember that under our constitution, under the 10th Amendment, each state has to right to make a determination as to what type of gambling they are going to have within their state borders and how they're going to regulate it and how they're going to tax it," Fahrenkopf said. "What the Goodlatte bill did went against that because it was fundamentally saying that even if two states decided that they wanted to have Internet gambling, to license and control, they wouldn't be allowed to."
The latest version of Goodlatte's bill, HR 3215, was introduced Nov.1, 2001. It's aim is to amend the 1961 Interstate Wire Act to make online gambling illegal in the United States, mainly by barring Internet gambling merchants from accepting payment for online gambling in the form of credit cards, check and Internet transfers.
For the last few weeks, the bill has been in line as part of a rolling mark-up to be considered by the Judiciary Committee. Goodlatte pulled the bill from a mark-up session on May 8. Rumor had it that last week the bill was to have been considered by the committee, but that didn't happen. Now, Fahrenkopf said, the bill could be pushed back as far as mid June.
Anne Lindner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org