In 2006, the then-Republican led Congress passed legislation effectively outlawing Internet gambling; the legislation was signed into law by a Republican president, George W. Bush. While the “Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006″ has hardly succeeded in stopping people from engaging in Internet wagering (on-line poker, for example, remains a lucrative sport – accounting for more than $6 billion in revenues in the U. S. alone), the law clearly has chilled development of on-line gambling in the U.S. as compared to other countries. Earlier this year, for example, a British citizen was sentenced to nearly three years in a federal prison after being pressured to plead guilty to federal racketeering charges stemming from his role as CEO of an overseas on-line gambling operation.
However, as pressures mount in the U.S. to takes steps to increase government tax revenues, efforts to repeal or at least loosen parts of the 2006 anti-Internet gambling act, are gaining momentum. Just last Wednesday, for example, the House Financial Services Committee voted 41 to 22 to favorably pass out of committee to the full House, a bill to effectively lift the 2006 ban on Internet poker and other non-sports betting. The vote blurred party lines to some extent, with seven Republicans joining all but four Democrats who voted in favor of the measure. Interestingly, both Georgians on the committee — Democrat David Scott and Republican Tom Price — voted against the legislation. However, the fact that the overwhelming majority of committee Republicans voted to continue the 2006 restrictions, illustrates the continuing penchant by the GOP nationally for limiting rather than expanding individual liberty.
The July 28th vote by the Financial Services Committee hardly guarantees that the measure will be brought to the full House for a vote; or that it would pass even if allowed an up-or-down vote. However, the fact that the legislation was reported out of committee on a strong, bipartisan vote, and considering that it is supported by both the banking and the credit union industries, gives those of us who believe that the government has no business criminalizing an individual’s choice to wager his own money on-line, at least some hope. It was a rare breath of fresh air in a Congress increasingly devoid of interest in favor of individual freedom.