Opposition mounts against Internet gaming ban


WASHINGTON — Momentum is building against a bill to prohibit Internet gambling as a House panel prepares to vote today on a cyber-wagering ban proposed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.

Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, is urging members of his party to vote against the Internet gambling ban, spokeswoman Dena Graziano confirmed Wednesday. Graziano declined to elaborate on why Conyers is opposed to the bill.

There is no guarantee the committee will even vote today on the Goodlatte bill. Originally scheduled last month, the vote has been repeatedly delayed.

In addition to Democratic opposition, Goodlatte’s bill will face resistance from at least one Republican member of the committee, Chris Cannon of Utah.

“I don’t know how the vote is going to shake out, but a lot of people don’t like this legislation,” Cannon said.

Cannon objects to Goodlatte’s proposal to prohibit credit card companies from making payments to Internet gambling Web sites.

“I can’t understand how you would control gambling, either with credit cards or with ISP (Internet service provider) control, without fundamentally changing the nature of our (financial) system,” Cannon said.

“I mean, if it’s gambling today that you change credit cards on, well what is it tomorrow?” Cannon said. “It doesn’t seem to be the proper role of government.”

Goodlatte’s bill seeks to prohibit credit card companies from making payments to offshore gambling Web sites. The bill would amend the 1961 Wire Act so that a ban against using phones to place bets across state lines would also apply to Internet gambling.

Calls to Goodlatte’s office on Wednesday were not returned.

Another vocal foe of Goodlatte’s bill on the committee is expected to be Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va.

Scott continues to question whether an Internet UFA gambling ban can be enforced against offshore Web sites that are not within the jurisdiction of the United States.

“I think the goals of the legislation would be much better met by legalizing and controlling gambling rather than trying to prohibit running a gambling operation on the Internet,” Scott said.

Scott and Cannon said they support Nevada legislation authorizing the state gaming commission to investigate whether Internet gambling can be effectively regulated.

The American Gaming Association, the casino industry’s chief lobbying group, originally opposed Goodlatte’s bill but agreed last month to support it.

The switch occurred after Goodlatte changed his bill so that a ban would not apply to Nevada and other states that may eventually legalize Internet gambling. Another change allows Nevada sports books to continue taking bets on horse races in other states.

Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association, declined to comment Wednesday.