by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor
The latest attack that Congressman Barney Frank has launched on the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, HR6870 or the Payment Protection Act, was passed through the mark-up stage in the House Financial Services Committee and is due for a vote in the House. The Payments Protection Act was designed to halt the enforcement of the UIGEA “except to the extent as any such regulation pertains to wagering of the type that is prohibited (as of the fate of the enactment of this Act) under chapter 178 of title 28, Unite States Code (relating to professional and amateur sports protection.)”
After an intense debate by both parties, HR6870 was passed to the House with a positive vote of 30-19 this week. The most recent of Frank’s bills would additionally keep banks and other financial institutions from permitting wagers on professional sports leagues in the United States. Finally, the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve will be forced, in team with an independent Administrative Law Judge, to more clearly define what is and what is not considered illegal online gambling. This is an action that Frank and other lobbyists have been fighting for for some time.
Many national sports leagues are obviously not in favor of HR 6870, and Congressman William Lacy Clay responded, “I’m alarmed that the major league sports would come forward to announce their opposition to the bill. I’m puzzled by their stance especially when you have legal sports books in Las Vegas. I can’t figure out what the difference is between internet gambling and Las Vegas sports books is.”
Lacy continued, in reference to the UIGEA, “Sometimes we should be willing to admit when we made a mistake and passed a law that’s unenforceable.”
Frank made note, in the debate, of the ambiguous nature of the UIGEA. He showed the hypocrisy of the U.S. law concerning internet casino gambling by pointing out the exemptions for horse racing, state lotteries and fantasy sports betting. “How people spend their leisure time should not be made illegal or encouraged in a free society,” said Frank. “If you’re going to [impose restrictions using the UIGEA], you’re hijacking the banking system. If this bill is passed, I would still like to repeal the law. Under this bill, at least the banks will know what is and isn’t illegal.”
Jeffrey Sandman of the pressure group Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative commented, “This important vote acknowledges that the previous attempt to prohibit Internet gambling was overly burdensome and unworkable. We hope this vote indicates a willingness of Congress to develop a more sensible approach towards Internet gambling. Rather than prohibit an activity millions of American enjoy in the privacy of their homes, just as they can do in a casino, Congress should create a framework to regulate Internet gambling as a way to protect consumers and collect billions in much-needed federal revenue.”
The amendment to the bill that was later introduced by Frank would require a detailed list from the government within sixty days showing banking institutions which activities are illegal and which are not.