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Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act

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Location: Washington, DC


INTERNET GAMBLING PROHIBITION AND ENFORCEMENT ACT

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Ms. BERKLEY. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank Mr. Conyers for his extraordinary efforts on this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to this legislation. Despite the misinformed and misguided claims of this bill's supporters, it would neither prohibit Internet gaming nor increase enforcement capabilities of the United States Government.

Instead, passing this bill will do the exact opposite. The millions of Americans who currently wager online will continue to use offshore Web sites out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement, and they will remain unprotected by State regulators who ensure the integrity of brick and mortar gaming establishments in this country.

I continue to be astounded by the Members of this body who constantly rail against an intrusive Federal Government; and yet when it comes to gaming, they are the first, the first to call for government intrusion.

A man's home is his castle unless he chooses to participate in online gaming. Then his home is the province of the Federal Government. This bill was recently included on the House Republicans' American Values Agenda.

Which American values is this promoting? It certainly cannot be the right to privacy. It certainly cannot be the right of individuals to be free to make their own decisions about what type of recreation to enjoy. And, yes, my colleagues, gaming is considered a form of recreation for millions of our fellow citizens.

Gaming is legal in this country in those States who choose to allow it and to regulate it. The vast majority of States do allow gaming and regulate it, whether it be lotteries, racing, card rooms, casinos, or bingo. This bill would make a legal activity illegal in those same States solely because it is done online rather than in a casino or in a church. In reality, the intent of this bill, and it is rather obvious, is to attack and outlaw legal gaming in our Nation.

Supporters of this bill argue that online gaming is a great danger to society and our youth because some people gamble too much and some underage people might access online wagering sites. By that logic, the next piece of legislation we should be considering is banning online shopping. Surely those who overspend their budgets online and young people who borrow their mom's credit card must be stopped by the long arm of Federal law enforcement.

Supporters of the bill before us today claim that their target is the offshore gambling operations that are sucking billions of dollars out of the United States, as Mr. Goodlatte said. Indeed, Internet gaming has grown from a $3 billion industry in 2001, and it is projected to reach $25 billion by the end of the decade.

Americans account for as much as half of that amount. But there is nothing in this bill, let me repeat that, nothing in this bill that will shut down these offshore companies who operate legally in other countries. Like it or not, Americans who wish to wager online will find a way to do so.

The very nature of a free World Wide Web will continue to make online gaming available across the globe, including the United States. Under this bill, billions of dollars will continue to flow out of our country, with millions of Americans wishing to wager online. It is ridiculous, ridiculous to think this bill will actually stop online gaming. Just like Prohibition failed, this prohibition on gaming in the comfort of your own living room will fail as well.

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Ms. BERKLEY. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Conyers, and my colleague from Florida, Mr. Wexler, in offering this amendment.

Despite all the righteous indignation we are hearing about the supposed evils of Internet gaming, this bill specifically and brazenly exempts one giant gambling enterprise from its prohibition. This bill's advocates proclaim the immorality of online gaming and shout that it will destroy our society unless you are betting on horse races.

Mr. Goodlatte asserts that his bill is neutral on the subject of interstate online pari-mutuel betting, but there is no getting around the fact that this bill very clearly and specifically states that online betting on horse racing is not prohibited.

And if you don't believe me, Mr. Speaker, let's look at what the National Thoroughbred Racing Association has said about the bill. In March of this year, after Financial Services approved the Leach bill, the NTRA issued a press release saying, ``The National Thoroughbred Racing Association has secured language in the unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act to protect Internet and account wagering on horse races.''

Later in the same release, ``The NTRA worked with Congressman Goodlatte to ensure that H.R. 4777 also contained language that protects online and account pari-mutuel wagering.'' That sounds pretty clear to me.

But wait, Mr. Speaker, there is more. After the Judiciary Committee approved both the Goodlatte and Leach bills in May, the Thoroughbred Times published an article titled, ``Gambling Bill Passes Committee With Racing Exemption Intact.'' The article states that the bill includes an exemption that would allow the United States horse racing industry to continue to conduct interstate account and Internet wagering. And, finally, it includes a quote from the NTRA spokesman who said, ``Not only did the bill pass by a significant margin, but three separate amendments to either slip out or substantially limit our exception were all defeated.'' It sounds to me like they think they got an exception in this bill.

The bill also includes another hypocritical exemption for intrastate lotteries that is highly ironic because, as has been stated here before, this exemption is exactly what the notorious felon, Jack Abramoff, wanted when he reportedly orchestrated the defeat of a similar bill several years ago because it had no exemption for lotteries. Mr. Abramoff, if he were here, would be laughing about this turn of events. I am sure his former clients are giddy.

Our amendment would strike the horse racing and lottery exemptions from this bill. Members who say they dislike Internet gaming have the opportunity to prove it by supporting this amendment.

If we do not adopt the amendment, then this entire debate is a farce, Mr. Speaker, because the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act before us does not completely prohibit Internet gaming. You want to outlaw Internet gaming? This body wants to outlaw Internet gaming? Well, let's do it. Let's test the mettle of our fellow colleagues.

I have heard many speakers talk about the special interests involved in this bill. Well, it seems to me that the most special interest is the Thoroughbred Horse Racing Association. They seem to have the most clout because they are the ones that got the exemption.

I ask all of my colleagues to join with me. If you are serious about outlawing Internet gaming, then let's really do it, and let's not carve out an exemption because it suits your purposes and your special interests.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. BERKLEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I absolutely am flabbergasted by the righteous indignation being displayed on the other side of the aisle, and it shocks my conscience hearing what I am hearing.

If the gentleman from Virginia is so intent on banning Internet gaming, well, then he should be supporting my amendment. Better yet, I should not have had to introduce an amendment. It should have been included in his original legislation.

If we are serious about banning gaming, then we should ban all forms of gaming, and I can't possibly imagine why he would be opposed to that. When he says it is a poison pill, why, because the horse racing association told him they would fight this if he brought in legislation that had this included and didn't make an exemption out of it?

I am absolutely astounded also by the other gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Wolf), whom I don't think would be offended if I said that he was opposed to gaming of any form. But I find it incomprehensible that in the year 2000 Congress approved a provision allowing online betting on horse racing, and during consideration of the bill on the floor, Mr. Wolf made a statement in which he said, ``This provision deeply troubles me, and would expand gambling at a time when men and women are becoming addicted to this process.'' Now he seems to be okay with the Leach-Goodlatte amendment which specifically exempts the activity made legal by this 2000 provision.

Now, if we want to let the States retain control of this issue, we should not be voting on doing this bill at all. It makes no sense. I would say that we are interfering with the States' rights, not helping them out.

And if you are arguing that the bill is neutral on horse racing, then why is it even mentioned in this bill? And why does the Thoroughbred Horse Racing Association think they have an exemption? Is Mr. Goodlatte willing to stand up here and make a statement for the record that the Thoroughbred Horse Racing Association and horse racing is exempt and the Department of Justice can go after them and shut them down? I don't think so.

And if you had an opportunity to go online, as I did just yesterday, and looked at the horse racing Internet sites, it is page after page after page. Anybody can log on. Anybody can place a bet. And I don't see any way to prevent children, and I don't see any way of keeping people from spending their hard-earned money on that.

This creates a huge exemption which we will have no control of, and totally, in my opinion, undermines the bill and makes a mockery and a farce of what we are doing here today, or supposed to be doing here today.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. BERKLEY. Mr. Speaker, I have heard a lot today about a carefully negotiated balance in this bill. I would like to know who was involved in this negotiation. I certainly wasn't. Was the horsing racing industry involved? Apparently, they were. Talk about a special interest. The lotteries? Jack Abramoff, perhaps? Because they are all getting exactly what they want with this piece of legislation.

I would like to urge a little honesty on the floor today and urge my colleagues to support the Berkley-Conyers amendment. If you are serious about banning Internet gaming, well, then, let's ban it and let's not make a major exception that can drive a truck through this.

I urge all my colleagues, before you vote on this, go online. Check out horse racing online and see the pages and pages of online betting that you can do when it comes to racing horses. There is no excuse and no reason for this exemption other than you couldn't cut a deal with the horse racing industry, so you exempted them.

I urge everyone to vote for the Berkley amendment and against the Goodlatte bill.

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