Online Gambling Regulations Bill Approved

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The House Financial Services Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would license and regulate online gambling in the United States, in a 41-22-1 vote.

The Security and Accountability For Every Port Act of 2006 (SAFE Port Act) was an Act of Congress covering port security online gambling measure that was added at the last moment. The House and Senate passed the conference report on September 30, 2006, and President Bush signed the Act into law on October 13, 2006.

Since 2008, Committee Chairman, Barney Frank (D-Mass) has been fighting and lobbying to halt the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. Frank’s first attempt failed to get out of Committee on a 32-32 vote. A second bill passed Committee on a 30-19 to vote, but was never voted on by the full House of Representatives.

This year, Rep. Frank introduced the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act (HR 2267). This bill drew a large amount of support by the Democrats and almost half of the votes by the Republicans. Thirty-four Democrats voted for the bill and four voted against it, while seven Republicans voted for the bill and 18 voting against it. Several members of the committee failed to even vote.

Along with Frank, two California Representatives, Republican John Campbell and Democrat Brad Sherman, took part in amending the bill Wednesday and ensuring its passage.

Campbell created a substantial amendment which called for changes on both the administrative and consumer protection sides of the proposed legislation. Campbell’s amendment gives “states and tribal authorities parallel authority to administer licenses and enforce these regulations.” Campbell’s amendment also requires licensees to maintain all online gambling facilities targeting U.S. residents within in the United States.

Campbell added additional protections for consumer by requiring the odds of winning be posted for each game. His amendment also requires loss limits for players in addition to age and location verification.

Sherman’s amendments added language that prevents bad “actors” from obtaining licenses, gives states a full legislative session to opt out of the federal plan and specified that that in order to get a license, the majority of that company’s job had to be in the U.S.

Other amendments that passed include bans on inappropriate advertising, bans on ads targeting minors and the frequent testing of minor protection systems.

“The fact is, online poker is not going away,” said former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, chairman of the Poker Players Alliance, in a statement. “Congress has a choice – it can license and regulate it to provide government oversight and consumer protections, or our lawmakers can stick their heads in the sand, ignore it, and leave consumers to play on non-U.S. regulated websites in all 50 states. I’m glad the Financial Services Committee today overwhelmingly chose to act and protect Americans as well as preserve the fundamental freedoms of adults and the Internet.”

There are still several hurdles that need to cleared before it can become law. First, the full House needs to vote on it. Since the house breaks on August 9th, it is unlikely the vote is going to happen. It is also unlikely the voting will occur during the lame-duck session of Congress after the November elections. The bottom line is that this means it has to pass a full floor vote between Sept. 7 and Oct. 8. In order for a full vote to happen, the Democratic leadership in the House, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), needs to schedule it.

If the House passes the bill, then it needs to be taken up by the Senate. If it is passed by both the House and the Senate, then it will need to be signed by President Obama.

It is important for all of this to happen this year, before the end of the legislative session. If it doesn’t, the process will have to start all over again next year. Then it will have to be presented when the makeup of both the House and the Senate will be different.

A bitter sweet victory for online gamblers, but a continuous uphill struggle and fight for those Representatives fighting for our rights.