Discussion Continues on Internet Gambling Legislation

The U. S. House Judiciary Committee continued to discuss the "Combating Illegal Gambling Reform and Modernization Act" the week of June 10, but it should be status quo until June 20, when the measure is on the calendar again.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, would prohibit Internet gambling but protect existing wagering protected under federal law. The latest amendments offered includes a "states' rights provision" that would allow gambling between two states in which it is already legal--multistate lotteries, for instance--and another that deals with wagering on Greyhound races.

American Horse Council president Jay Hickey said the amendments had nothing to do with a horse racing provision already in place. It upholds existing practices in the pari-mutuel industry.

Rep. Chris Cannon of Utah, one of two states with no legal gambling, wants the protection for the pari-mutuel industry stripped from the bill. The AHC had alerted members of the situation the week of May 6.

The Combating Illegal Gambling Reform and Modernization Act has been a work in process for years. Various interests, including horse racing, casino gambling, lotteries, and Indian tribes, have sought provisions in the legislation.

The pari-mutuel industry earned a victory when the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 was modified to uphold existing practices. According to the AHC, Cannon's amendment targets those provisions included under the federal Wire Act.

In a related matter, the AHC's Racing Committee has voted that any proposed amendments to the Interstate Horseracing Act be discussed by the industry before they're introduced. The committee in turn opposes an amendment floated by New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone that would differentiate between "host" and "off-track" horsemen's associations.

The National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association said proposed language changes to the law "would, in effect, give the 'off-track,' or receiving representative horsemen's group(s) control over the 'host' or sending horsemen's group(s)." Pallone's proposed amendment is called the "Live Racing Protection Act of 2002."

In New Jersey, Thoroughbred horsemen have battled with the state Sports and Exposition Authority over live racing dates. Horsemen believe live racing needs protection, and the proposed Interstate Horseracing Act amendment would give them authority when it comes to signals brought into New Jersey tracks.

The AHC committee believes the issue should be addressed on the state level, not through the federal Interstate Horseracing Act.