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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Congressman Opposes Gambling but Supports Horse Betting

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When it comes to taking a stance against gaming, one of the biggest opponents of online gambling has been the Congressman from Virginia, Bob Goodlatte.

Congressman Goodlatte was the one responsible for writing the rules of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) which was enacted last year. Although the UIGEA made it illegal for financial institutions to fund online players’ accounts, the law never clearly specified which exact online gaming activities are illegal.

The law left a big legal gaming loophole. Within this hole falls such “legal” betting as state lotteries, dog racing, fantasy sports and horse racing.

It has recently come to light that there may be a very personal reason Congressman Goodlatte left this big loophole. It was reported on an episode of Perspectives Weekly that the Congressman accepted almost $40,000 in lobbying funds, from none other than the horse race betting industry. While pushing the UIGEA for several years in Congress, Goodlatte repeatedly took the high moral stand that “Gambling is immoral”. Evidently, in Goodlatte’s financial view anyway, betting on the ponies is not gambling, therefore not immoral. Either that or this is a double standard of criticizing one form of gambling while letting another form line your coffers.

Recently, in Washington, Goodlatte testified again before the House Judiciary Committee in a session regarding the UIGEA. His flip-flopping anti-gambling opinions were again heard by the likes of Congressman John Conyers, who assembled the meeting. At the session Goodlatte insisted that violators of the UIGEA should be prosecuted.

Just who should be the agency that prosecutes these offenders was not clear. When US Department of Justice representative Catherine Hannaway spoke; she informed the assembly that her agency does not consider gambling online illegal. If that is the case, it doesn’t seem that the DOJ would be the agency to enforce the UIGEA.

It appears Congressmen, as well as the other powers that be, in Washington keep trying to change the rules to fit their personal agendas. The biggest mistake the US made, besides passing the UIGEA in the first place, was trying to go backwards in their stand on online gambling with the WTO. After the WTO ruling, the US tried essentially to say “We didn’t want online gambling included in our WTO agreements.” The WTO can’t condone this back peddling of course, or it sets a precedent for other countries to change boats in the middle of the stream as well.

The UIGEA has turned out to be very bad business for everyone, from the player, all the way to the President. With the US facing billions of dollars in sanctions since the WTO ruling against them, it is too late for the US to try to change the rules of engagement now.

As WTO arbitration expert Joseph Weiler, a professor at the NYU School of Law, told House Judiciary Committee members, "This might be regarded and is regarded by many as a cynical manipulation of the system - you lose the game, so you try and change the rules."

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