I am absolutely livid right now. Our Republican overlords last night slipped in a ban on all financial transactions that might be involved in internet gambling into a totally unrelated bill and got it slipped through.
Lawmakers stayed up late as well, making sure to throw our country back into the Dark Ages. It became apparent that Republicans spearheaded by Senator First would stop at nothing to prohibit Internet gambling. In a last ditch desperation move, the Senate majority leader was able to attach legislation to ban online gambling to a Port Security bill that had no correlation whatsoever with online betting. And it was automatically passed in the Senate without even a debate or a formal vote.
And naturally, it exempts those forms of gambling that already help government revenue:
To summarize what was passed, this bill is designed to prevent the use of payment instruments (credit cards, fund transfers, etc.) for certain forms of online gambling that are defined as “unlawful Internet gambling.” The bill requires financial institutions to identify and block payments related to so-called unlawful Internet gambling transactions. If there is a violation, the government may file a lawsuit (known as an injunction) to prevent or restrain the violation. The bill provides a special exemption for three types of Internet gambling: (1) horse racing under the Interstate Horseracing Act (IHA), so OTBs and account wagering systems can remain in business, (2) Indian gambling that takes place on a reservation or between two reservations; and (3) Internet gambling that occurs solely within a state’s own borders, referred to as Intra-state gambling.
Not only is the bill outrageous enough, the fact that it was slipped through attached to a totally unrelated bill makes it infinitely more outrageous. It is time to put a stop to this crap. Our leaders are destroying our rights and not even holding a public debate over it. It destroys all accountability in government. It is time to pass the Read the Bills Act. It’s also time to vote these bastards out of office, every single one of them.
This site reports that online gaming companies are preparing to file suit. In my view, that suit should absolutely succeed. Even if you apply a rational basis test, how can you seriously argue that the government has a legitimate interest in banning online gambling when the very billi that does so explicitly exempts several forms of it? On its face, the bill can’t possibly achieve its goal. It’s like arguing that a law against theft that exempts theft from certain groups from the law could be justified because the government has an interest in stopping theft. If that’s the case, then it should be universal. If theft is wrong, it’s wrong no matter who you steal from.
It also seems to me that because they snuck it through, in teh Senate at least, it undermines an argument for a compelling state interest. There is no legislative history, no findings of fact, no testimony they can cite to justify the bill in court (on the Senate side, at least).
Democrats favored the bill, but said it failed to address rail and mass transit, other areas considered highly vulnerable to terrorist attack.
“The terrorist attacks on rail and transit systems in Spain, London and Mumbai (Bombay) should be enough evidence to convince the Republican-led Congress that U.S. rails are dangerously vulnerable,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.
The bill was slow in reaching the House and Senate floors because lawmakers from both sides sought to attach their own favorite pieces of legislation to the ports measure because of the certainty it would reach the president’s desk.
In the end, the only major add-on was legislation to restrict Internet gambling. Also attached was a measure, pushed by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., to help communities lacking telecommunications infrastructure install sirens and other emergency alert systems…
Democrats, in a letter to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., who headed House-Senate negotiations on the bill, complained they were denied the right to offer amendments to restore rail security language contained in the original Senate bill.
This is how completely insane the Republican leadership is here: they refused to allow an amendment to beef up rail security along with port security, but they attached this totally unrelated amendment to it. And it passed 409-2, only Ed Markey and Jeff Flake voting against it. There was apparently no vote ever taken on the gambling portion itself, only on the overall bill.
And here’s the thing: I don’t for a moment believe that they give a damn about morality or about protecting state tax revenue from competition. This is purely a payoff to the brick and mortar casino interests, who paid the legislature to get rid of the competition. This is where the government acts as the equivalent of mafia hitmen, destroying the competition to protect the profits of their constituents. They pay Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed millions to get rid of their competition for them. That is not what governments should be doing.