Iowa Congressman Jim Leach has long called for a federal crack down on Internet gambling and on Tuesday the U.S. House overwhelmingly approved a bill Leach co-sponsored that would prevent gamblers from using credit cards to wager on-line.
“Internet gambling has been illegal since the inception of the Internet, but there’s been no way to enforce it,” Leach says. “What we are saying is that the financial intermediaries, whether it be banks or credit card companies or ‘pay pal’ types of institutions will be accountable for ensuring that banking instruments are not used to settle Internet wagers.”
Leach, a Republican from Iowa City, has tried to get this bill through Congress for seven or eight years. “During that time period Internet gambling has exploded in size and it looks like it may double again in the next two or three years unless restraints are placed on it,” Leach says.
According to Leach, one reason the bill passed the House now is that major sporting organizations are backing it. Leach says the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NHL, the NBA as well as the NCAA are “really, really worried about the integrity of the game” because the “temptations to lean one way or another, or fumble, or miss a basket are really very, very high” when gambling pressures become part of the game. Leach calls Internet wagering the “crack cocaine” of gambling.
A University of Illinois professor has said of Internet wagering that when you move your mouse, you lose your house. “It’s a rather extraordinary phenomenon,” Leach says. Leach cites several instances, such as the sophomore class president at LeHigh University who was the son of a minister. The young man fell behind in his Internet wagers, and robbed a bank. Leach says others contemplate or do commit suicide because they’re bowled over by on-line gambling debts.
The bill faces an uncertain future in the U.S. Senate. Leach says Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, the son of a former Iowa Congressman from Bloomfield, is pushing a bill that’s similar to what passed the House Tuesday. Critics of the bill argued it would be better to regulate for the Internet gambling industry rather than outlaw it.