House Committee's Vote Termed 'Anti-Gambling'

The "Combating Illegal Gambling Reform and Modernization Act" cleared the House Judiciary Committee June 18 after removal of provisions that permit states to legalize interstate wagering and the horseracing industry to continue business legal under the Interstate Horseracing Act.

The vote, a tight 15-12, suggests deep division on the issue. The legislation now goes to the full House along with the "Unlawful Internet Gambling Prohibition Act," which would prohibit use of credit to make Internet wagers. That bill was approved by the House Financial Services Committee earlier this year.

The House Rules Committee will consider both bills and decide on a procedure for a House vote when House leadership gives the go-ahead.

"Today's vote was obviously an anti-gambling vote," American Horse Council president Jay Hickey said in a prepared statement. "A substantial number of the committee members did not want to allow states the opportunity to continue to legalize interstate account wagering for other forms of wagering, such as casinos, lotteries, Native American gaming, dog racing, and charitable gaming.

"The horse industry supported this bill with the provision allowing the industry to continue interstate account wagering activities under the Interstate Horseracing Act. I would expect that the industry will have to consider its position now that that language is no longer in the bill."

The legislation as introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia prohibited most forms of Internet betting but allowed for intrastate wagering legalized by states, wagering on Native American land, and pari-mutuel wagering covered by the Interstate Horseracing Act. A Goodlatte substitute bill would have allowed states to legalize interstate wagering on the Internet.

After the substitute surfaced, Rep. Chris Cannon of Utah, a state with no legal gambling, proposed an amendment that eliminated states' authority as well as the horseracing provision. The Cannon amendment passed the committee by a few votes.

Goodlatte said the federal government must respect states' rights and other federal law, such as the Interstate Horseracing Act.

Other amendments -- one that would have made it a crime to wager on the Internet, and another that would have permitted charitable organizations to offer Internet betting -- failed to get the committee's approval.