In response to the U.S. Justice Department's comments regarding the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and the American Horse Council have told a House subcommittee that interstate, common-pool simulcasting is legal by law, and that passage of HR 3125 would merely allow the pari-mutuel industry to continue business as usual.
The letter, signed by NTRA deputy commissioner Greg Avioli and AHC president Jay Hickey, was sent to Rep. W.J. Tauzin, chairman of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade, and Consumer Protection. During a hearing on Capitol Hill last week, deputy assistant attorney general Kevin DiGregory testified that interstate simulcasting and account wagering are criminal activities under law.
The NTRA/AHC letter noted that common-pool wagering across state lines has been licensed and regulated for more than 20 years and is legal under the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978. It said the provisions of HR 3125 maintain current law under which states determine the types of pari-mutuel allowable within their borders.
The Senate companion to HR 3125 passed last year, and the House must now approve the legislation. It has become a hot topic in various House committees.
On Tuesday, the House Banking Committee discussed related legislation that would ban use of credit cards and checks to wager online. In testimony at that hearing, DiGregory said the bill shouldn't be limited to Internet wagering. He said all forms of illegal gambling should be included.
Alex Ingle, chief financial officer for the New York Racing Association, told the committee the pari-mutuel industry is a “major, legitimate, tax-paying” industry that should not be grouped in with unregulated offshore gambling businesses.
The House Commerce Committee has until Friday to act on HR 3125. Its passage has been stalled by other groups, such as state lotteries, that also want exemptions. If additional exemptions are added, the bill probably would die.
“The coalition (that supports the bill) was preserved at the Judicial Committee level, and that included religious and family groups,” NTRA commissioner Tim Smith said during a NTRA membership meeting in Dallas, Texas, on Monday. “If lotteries were added, we probably would lose that support. We're not the only problem they're having with the bill, but we're an easy target.”