WASHINGTON – The leading House proponent of an Internet gambling ban doesn’t buy the notion that Congress missed its best chance when it failed last year to prohibit wagering on the World Wide Web.
Chances are better this year, says Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., because there is a new attorney general and a Republican in the White House.
A critic of legalized gambling, Attorney General John Ashcroft voted to outlaw Internet wagering in 1999 when he was a Republican senator from Missouri.
And although President George W. Bush has not taken a position on an Internet gambling ban, Goodlatte said he is confident the new administration will be more cooperative than the Clinton administration.
“In the last Congress, the (Clinton) administration was resisting the bill,” Goodlatte said. “This year, I think we’ll get everybody on board heading in the same direction.”
Goodlatte, 48, dismissed the argument that Internet gambling, a $1.5 billion industry last year with revenues projected to reach $6 billion by 2003, simply has grown too big and gained too many powerful allies for Congress to enact a prohibition.
“There is growing concern by state governments in particular because these illegal, unregulated, untaxed offshore gaming operations are sucking increasingly large numbers of money out of the country,” Goodlatte said in an interview. “They’re ripping off consumers.”
State lotteries recorded their first downturn ever in revenues last year, Goodlatte said, and governors blame Internet gambling. When told that some casino executives believe the legalization of Internet gambling is inevitable, Goodlatte said, “We’ll see.”
Goodlatte said he plans to re-introduce his bill in “the next several weeks.” The five-term congressman said he could not be more specific because he is working with various interests to shape the legislation.
Among them is Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who has said he plans to offer similar legislation in the Senate but may wait until after Goodlatte re-introduces his bill in the House.
Both Goodlatte and Kyl expressed frustration last year when their efforts to pass an Internet gambling ban stalled. Kyl’s bill sailed through the Senate by voice vote in November 1999. Eight months later, the House passed Goodlatte’s bill 245-159 but it fell short of the two-thirds majority required under an expedited voting procedure.
If he had it to do over again, Goodlatte said he would not have gone forward with the vote under the super-majority requirement. “We were requested to do that by the leadership so they could avoid a more complicated and more protracted fight on the floor,” he said.
Last week, Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, resurrected a bill that would ban the use of credit cards, checks or wire transfers to pay for Internet gambling. Some observers say Leach’s proposal is more feasible than the Internet gambling ban advocated by Goodlatte.
But Goodlatte said the two Daftar Slot Online measures are compatible, and Leach’s bill may be incorporated into his. Neither bill would ban offshore gambling as long as it stays offshore, he said.
“We don’t for example, tell a casino on Antigua that they can’t have an Internet gambling operation out of Antigua,” he said. ” We simply say that that’s against the law in the United States and we give law enforcement in the United States new tools to counter their illegal activities if they offer them in the United States.”
One of the reasons Goodlatte’s bill faltered last year was a requirement that Internet service providers block Web sites being transmitted by offshore gambling operations. Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., considered the provision too onerous and a potential threat to the thriving Internet economy.
As the chairman of the House Rules Committee, Dreier has substantial influence in setting guidelines for debate on bills on the House floor. Goodlatte was unable to address Dreier’s concerns at the end of last year’s congressional session to gain a vote on the floor without a two-thirds majority requirement.
But Goodlatte said he has gone a long way in allaying Dreier’s reservations about the bill. For example, Goodlatte has abandoned a provision requiring Internet service providers to block offshore gambling Web sites. Instead, he has adopted Leach’s recommendation to bar credit card companies from authorizing payments for Internet gambling.
“Quite frankly, I think it’s (a) much more effective remedy,” Goodlatte said. Dreier could not be contacted Monday for comment.
Goodlatte said he was puzzled why three Nevada gaming companies – MGM Mirage, Park Place Entertainment and Harrah’s Entertainment – have set up their own not-for-money Web pages and are making plans to exploit the Internet market.
“If our bill passes, those companies will not be able to offer Internet gambling outside Nevada,” he said.