The movement to regulate online gaming in the U.S. scored its first legislative victory since the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) when The House Financial Services Committee passed Payment Systems Protection Act (PSPA) by a 30-19 vote Tuesday. A similar measure failed to make it out of committee two months ago after a 32-32 vote.
The new bill, sponsored by Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Rep Peter King (R-NY), calls on the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department to draft and implement regulations that prevent sports betting transactions from being processed within 60 days of the bill becoming law. But it halts the development of any regulations beyond sports betting until a session that involves an administrative law judge determines exactly what is legal and illegal Internet gambling. The bill also requires the Treasury Department to create and maintain a list of unlawful Internet gambling businesses, and mandates that no transactions can be blocked if a company is not on the list.
“Under this bill, at least the banks will know what is and isn’t illegal,” Frank said at the markup hearing. “We’re asking the Treasury Department to give them a list.”
Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) led the opposition to the bill, and managed to force a recorded vote after the measure had easily passed by voice vote.
“I’m disappointed that we’re marking up another bill designed to impede the enforcement of the UIGEA,” Bachus said. “This legislation (UIGEA) is necessary because Internet gambling regulations can not work like casino regulations.” Bachus also told the committee that the professional sports leagues continued to oppose the delay in implementing UIGEA regulations, and that struck a nerve with some of the legislators at the hearing.
“I’m puzzled by pro sports opposition to this,” said Rep. William Clay (D-MO). “I’m trying to find out the difference between betting at Caesars or the Tropicana in Vegas and betting on the Internet.”
Clay also took exception to the professional sports leagues opposing the PSPA even though the bill allows for immediate implementation of regulation that eliminate sports betting transactions.
“If that doesn’t satisfy major league sports, nothing else will,” Clay said.
Frank was also disappointed by the stance of America’s professional sports leagues.
“I don’t see why the sports leagues get to tell people what to do,” Frank said.
“How people spend their leisure time should be neither made illegal or encouraged.”
The passage of the bill by the House Financial Services Committee drew immediate praise from the Poker Players Alliance (PPA).
“The PPA is pleased that the House Financial Services Committee today recognized the need to provide necessary clarification to what constitutes ‘unlawful Internet gambling’ under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) by passing H.R. 6870,” said PPA chairman and former Senator Alfonse D’Amato.
“Even those who oppose internet gambling should applaud the passage of this legislation as it provides the most realistic opportunity to block truly unlawful internet gambling transactions.”