Vote is in: Committee approves Frank's bill

Justice scales

The process went a little more smoothly for Rep. Barney Frank's Payments System Protection Act this time around as the Financial Services Committee put it through the markup process today and voted the bill through.

During the markup process earlier today, a few members of the committee weighed in on the reintroduced version of the PSPA, now labeled H.R. 6870. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) commended Frank (D-Mass) for the changes he made to the bill to give it more focus, and gave his support to the bill.

The bill's purpose is to ensure that implementation of the proposed Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act regulations doesn't cause harm to the banking and financial industry.

The UIGEA prohibits banks and other financial institutions from allowing transactions with illegal online gambling sites. It hasn't yet been put into force because the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve are struggling to come up with a set of regulations to implement the bill.

In response to a hearing in April where representatives expressed their difficulty in coming up with regulations, Frank introduced the Payments System Protection Act, which invoked putting a stop to the implementation of the UIGEA.

That bill was defeated in committee by a tie vote, and now Frank has reintroduced it with a more targeted approach. Rather than stopping the implementation of the UIGEA, he is using the Payments System Protection Act to try to define illegal online gambling and narrow the focus of the UIGEA.

One section of the bill limits the Secretary of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to applying the UIGEA regulations only to online wagering that is already specifically prohibited - namely betting on sporting events.

Another section asks that the two agencies consult the attorney general to develop and implement UIGEA regulations that clearly define "unlawful Internet gambling" and only do so after conducting a full economic impact study of the proposed regulations.

The biggest opponent of Frank's original version was Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), and he was again the most outspoken opponent of the new version.

Bachus argued that allowing Internet gambling is like putting casinos directly in children's bedrooms and that early exposure to gambling increases the chance the child will grow up to be a compulsive gambler as well.

Another of his points was that credit cards make spending on gambling much easier, allowing patrons to overspend more easily because they get a distorted view of what they're actually spending.

Bachus also said he had talked to representatives from organized sports entities today who still expressed opposition to the Payments System Protection Act and legalizing Internet gambling.

He said he appreciated the effort that Frank put into giving his bill a more targeted approach, but he still can't support it.

Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) expressed his disappointment that the sports organizations were still against the bill despite sports betting continuing to remain illegal according to the revised version of the bill.

Clay also said he saw no difference between online sports betting versus the legal sports betting that goes on in Las Vegas all the time.

"Sometimes we as lawmakers need to admit mistakes when we pass a law that is unenforceable," Clay said.

Frank followed up Clay's comments by saying that it doesn't make any sense for Congress to tell people how they can or can't spend their leisure time. It's not about the government condoning those activities, but about giving people the right to make that choice themselves.

Even so, the UIGEA has already been passed and now it is their responsibility to make sure it can be implemented in a way that doesn't put still more burdens on the already-beleaguered banking system. To do that, Frank feels that the UIGEA needs to have a clear direction and definition of what is illegal online gambling.

After the debate, the bill markup was passed by a verbal vote, and Bachus asked for a recorded vote as well. The Financial Services Committee members then met again at the end of the day for a full, recorded vote that ended up with a 30-19 vote for approval of the bill.

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