INTRODUCTION OF THE ``INTERNET GAMBLING PROHIBITION ACT'' -- (Extensions of Remarks - February 17, 2006)
SPEECH OF HON. BOB GOODLATTE OF VIRGINIA IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2006
* Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce today bipartisan legislation, the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, along with my colleague Representative Rick Boucher of Virginia, to address the ever increasing problem of illegal Internet gambling in our Nation.
* The Internet is a revolutionary tool that dramatically affects the way we communicate, conduct business, and access information. As it knows no boundaries, the Internet is accessed by folks in rural and urban areas alike, in large countries as well as small. The Internet is currently expanding by leaps and bounds; however, it has not yet come close to reaching its true potential as a medium for commerce and communication.
* One of the main reasons that the Internet has not reached this potential is that many folks view it as a wild frontier, with no safeguards to protect children and very few legal protections to prevent online criminal activity. The ability of the World Wide Web to penetrate every home and community across the globe has both positive and negative implications--while it can be an invaluable source of information and means of communication, it can also override community values and standards, subjecting them to whatever may or may not be found online.
* Gambling is an excellent example of this situation. It is currently illegal in the United States unless regulated by the States. With the development of the Internet, however, prohibitions and regulations governing gambling have been turned on their head. No longer do people have to leave the comfort of their homes and make the affirmative decision to travel to a casino; they can access the casino from their living rooms.
* Since 1868, the Federal Government has enacted Federal gambling statutes when a particular type of gambling activity has escaped the ability of States to regulate it. For over 100 years, Congress has acted to assist States in enforcing their respective policies on gambling when developments in technology of an interstate nature, such as the Internet, have compromised the effectiveness of State gambling laws.
* The negative consequences of online gambling can be as detrimental to the families and communities of addictive gamblers as if a bricks and mortar casino was built right next door. Online gambling can result in addiction, bankruptcy, divorce, crime, and moral decline just as with traditional forms of gambling, the costs of which must ultimately be borne by society.
* Gambling on the Internet is especially enticing to youth, pathological gamblers, and criminals. There are currently no mechanisms in place to prevent youths--who make up the largest percentage of Internet users--from using their parents' credit card numbers to register and set up accounts for use at Internet gambling sites. In addition, pathological gamblers may become easily addicted to online gambling because of the Internet's easy access, anonymity and instant results. Finally, Internet gambling can provide a nearly undetectable harbor for criminal enterprises. The anonymity associated with the Internet makes online gambling more susceptible to crime.
* I have long been an advocate of the Internet and of limited government regulation of this new medium. However, that does not mean that the Internet should be a regulatory free zone or that our existing laws should not apply to the Internet. I think we can all agree that it would be very bad public policy to allow offline activity deemed criminal by States to be freely committed online and to go unpunished simply because we are reluctant to apply our laws to the Internet.
* Gambling on the Internet has become an extremely lucrative business. Numerous studies have charted the explosive growth of this industry, both by the increases in gambling websites available, and via industry revenues. Some estimates show that it is now a $12 billion a year industry.
* Most Internet gambling sites are offshore. Virtual betting parlors accepting bets from individuals in the United States have attempted to avoid the application of United States law by locating themselves offshore and out of our jurisdictional reach. These offshore, fly-by-night Internet gambling operators are unlicensed, untaxed and unregulated and are sucking billions of dollars out of the United States. In addition, the FBI and the Department ofJustice has testified that Internet gambling serves as a vehicle for money laundering activities and can be exploited by terrorists to launder money.
* Current law already prohibits gambling over telephone wires. However, because the Internet does not always travel over telephone wires, these laws, which were written before the invention of the World Wide Web, have become outdated. My legislation simply clarifies the state of the law by bringing the current prohibition against wire line interstate gambling up to speed with the development of new technology. It also makes clear once and for all that the prohibition is not limited to sports-related bets and wagers.
* In addition, my legislation will add a new provision to the law that would prohibit a gambling business from accepting certain forms of non-cash payment, including credit cards and electronic transfers, for the transmission of illegal bets and wagers. This provision provides an enforcement mechanism to address the situation where the gambling business is located offshore but the gambling business used bank accounts in the United States. The bill also provides an additional tool to fight illegal gambling by giving Federal, State, local and tribal law enforcement new injunctive authority to prevent and restrain violations of the law.
* The legislation I am introducing will return control to the States by protecting the right of citizens in each State to decide through their State legislatures if they want to allow gambling within their borders and not have that right taken away by offshore, fly-by-night operators. The regulation of intrastate gambling is within the jurisdiction of the States, so the bill leaves the regulation of wholly intrastate betting or wagering to the States with tight controls to be sure that such betting or wagering does not extend beyond their borders or to minors.
* Internet gambling is a serious problem that must be stopped. The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act will help eliminate this harmful activity before it spreads further. I urge my colleagues to support this very important legislation.