Prospects For Online Gambling Bills in 112th US Congress
By Bradley P. Vallerius, JD
As Congress goes on summer break from August 6 to September 5, the House of Representatives has two separate proposals to consider. One bill, H.R. 1174 (The Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act), would give great power and authority to the Federal government and allow the licensing of internet casino games and poker. The other bill, H.R. 2366 (The Internet Gambling Prohibition, Poker Consumer Protection, and Strengthening UIGEA Act of 2011), would delegate most power and authority to State and tribal regulators and allow the licensing of internet poker only.

During the last Congress, the House saw only one proposal. The plan was similar to today’ H.R. 1174, and 70 Representatives felt strongly enough to list their names as cosponsors. Rep. Barney Frank, who was the bill’ lead sponsor and Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee during the last Congress, managed to send the bill to the floor of the House after his committee approved it 41-22, but a vote on the floor did not occur.
The addition of another proposal in the Financial Services Committee this Congress potentially complicates things. Now the task is not as simple as giving assent to something that was already approved last Congress. Now serious thought has to be given to which proposal is better, or which elements can be pulled from each to create an optimal framework. 

The conventional requirement would entail a formal informational hearing addressing both bills, followed sometime later by a mark-up session in which committee members propose revisions and then vote on one of the bills.
But this is not the same House Financial Services Committee as last Congress. Rep. Frank no longer controls the committee’ agenda and scheduling, having been ousted as chairman because the Democrats lost control of the House in the 2010 elections. Ideologically, the new chairman, Rep. Spencer Bachus, is a stark contrast to Rep. Frank. One of Rep. Bachus’ top priorities for the committee is to rebuild the Wall Street Reform Act that Frank worked hard to enact last Congress. 
Rep. Bachus was also one of the lead sponsors of prohibition legislation leading up to UIGEA, so it is very hard to imagine he is interested in scheduling hearings to discuss proposals to license and regulate internet gambling. After all, even if for argument’ sake Bachus or any of the other former prohibitionists could have a change of mind, they could never publicly admit to it because doing so could undermine their credibility.
Additionally, as if scheduling internet gambling in the Financial Services Committee would not be difficult enough, two other House Committees have claimed jurisdiction this Congress the Judicial Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee. Furthermore, all three of the committees have pushed the proposals down to the subcommittee level. In a perfect Congress, all three subcommittees would ponder the proposals, then revise one of the bills and send it up to the full committee for approval. Then the full committee might revise it again before sending it for a vote on the floor of the House. 
But it is highly improbable internet gambling will be given such concern. More likely are scenarios that involve speeding through the committees or circumventing them altogether by way of some non-conventional procedure – as has happened several times already with internet gambling legislation over the years. 


Bradley P. Vallerius, JD has eight years of experience specializing in research and information for the global online gaming industry and is currently pursuing a career in regulatory compliance and government affairs in the U.S.
Read more about prospects for Internet gambling legislation in the 112th US Congress in a special report in the Platinum Subscription and Interactive Gambling Report.