Leach Bill Resurfaces

14 February 2001
While the interactive gaming world awaited news of whether it would be Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., or Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virg., behind this year's first push for outlawing Internet gambling, Rep. James Leach of Iowa took the spotlight by reintroducing his funding bill.

On Monday, Leach introduced House Resolution 556, the "Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act," a bill that seeks to halt Internet gambling in the United States by making it nearly impossible for Americans to pay for their online gambling activities.

Last year's effort, HR 4419, which was co-sponsored by Rep. John LaFalce (D-NY), was left in committee when Congress adjourned. (LaFalce was not involved with this year's bill.)

HR 556 is identical to last year's bill as approved by the Banking Committee, according to Leach's assistant David Runkel. It was introduced with little fanfare by Leach and, according to gaming attorney Anthony Cabot, bears great resemblance structurally to the Federal Wire Act.

"It's a very well written bill," Cabot said. "It doesn't affect gambling that is legal. It only affects what they call 'unlawful' games."

Cabot says HR 556 seems to reinforce current legislation that leaves gambling issues in the hands of state governments, while the federal government would only assist the states in enforcing their legislation. As such, the bill would not affect legislation pending in New Jersey, for example, that would allow land-based casinos licensed there to offer online games.

On the other hand, Cabot said, the bill "would have major impact, potentially, for offshore operators if, in fact, this bill would scare credit card companies from providing services."

Cabot pointed out that the language used in HR 556, unlike other Internet gambling prohibition efforts, does not seek to set policy, rather it still leaves the ultimate decision about the issue to the federal or state governments to decide.

A similar measure likely to surface sometime soon will be Rep. Goodlatte's prohibition bill. Goodlatte failed to get it passed last year, but has vowed to renew the battle this year. Michelle Semones, a spokesperson for Goodlatte, indicated that even though he hadn't yet seen HR 556, "we're certainly supportive of his (Leach) efforts."

The Treasure Department hasn't commented on yet on the Leach bill. According to one Treasury official, they're unable to take a look at the legislation for the moment and will instead concentrate on the many positions in the department that remain unfilled.

HR 556 has been referred to the House Judiciary and Financial Services Committee. Leach's office said that with the session just starting, it's difficult to determine when the bill will be debated in committee.

Click here to view the Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act, HR 556.