Committee votes down online gambling amendment

Hands tied

On Wednesday the House Financial Services Committee took a look at Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Sen. Ron Paul's (R-Texas) bill to stop the implementation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

The committee voted Wednesday on Rep. Peter King's (R-N.Y.) amendment to the bill that would require federal regulators to write a uniform definition of which types of gambling should and should not be allowed on the Internet.

The record vote of 32 ayes and 32 nays meant the amendment failed to pass, and that H.R. 5767 was not going to move on in the process to being approved at this time.

"The PPA is surprised that the Financial Services Committee today failed to clarify what constitutes 'unlawful Internet gambling' under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA)," said former Senator Alfonse D'Amato, Poker Players Alliance chairman.

"The King Amendment would have required a separate formal rulemaking with an administrative law judge to determine the definition of unlawful Internet gambling."

D'Amato pointed out that the Federal Reserve, the Department of the Treasury and the banking industry have all testified that the lack of definition of "unlawful Internet gambling" makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to enforce the UIGEA.

The goal of H.R. 5767, Payments System Protection Act, is to stop the UIGEA from being implemented. The UIGEA further restricts online gambling in the United States by making it illegal for people to use their banks or other financial institutions to make payments to online gambling sites.

During a hearing in April about the process of implementing the UIGEA, several flaws in the new law were pointed out that were making it difficult to implement and would also make it difficult to enforce.

In response to that information, Frank and Paul introduced H.R. 5767 to stop the UIGEA while lawmakers also look at bills that could legalize online gambling in the United States under a federally regulated licensing system.

While Frank argued that the financial institutions are being put in the unfair role of law enforcement with the UIGEA even though it's still unclear what is and isn't illegal, the Financial Services Committee's top Republican Spencer Bachus, of Alabama, argued that gambling is the fastest-growing addition in the United States and having it online makes it more accessible to children.

According to the Associated Press, Bachus said though the banks have deemed the effort a financial burden, opponents of online gambling have decided that children are worth protecting.

"It is disappointing to realize that opponents of this legislation still do not truly understand the intent of the bill," D'Amato said. "It was clear today that those who oppose this bill chose to focus on emotional and non-germane issues, such as the harmful impact of gambling on children, instead of on the merits of the bill itself."

The PPA's position is that the UIGEA is a completely unworkable and unenforceable bill that will do little to address the main concerns of its sponsors such as protecting underage and compulsive gamblers and cracking down on money laundering.

"To truly address these issues, the PPA firmly believes that Congress should implement thoughtful and effective regulation of the online gambling industry as opposed to outright prohibitions, which history has shown do not work," D'Amato said.

"Unfortunately, debate over the morality of gambling trumped debate on the fact that UIGEA is completely ineffective and unenforceable."

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