Some members of the U.S. House of Representatives are trying to get a federal legalization of online gambling so they can regulate and tax the industry. Such initiatives would overturn the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, which – though it didn’t outlaw online gambling – does allow the feds to go after financial institutions used in “unlawful” online gambling transactions. There is currently no federal law that bans online gambling, though it is banned in a few states.
The push to overturn UIGEA and regulate online gambling in America has been led by Democrat Barney Frank (D-MA) and Republican Ron Paul (R-TX). My personal opinion is that Paul wants online gambling legalized because the government has no business telling people what they can and can’t do with their money and Frank wants it regulated because he loves the government controlling and taxing businesses.
Since the Frank-Paul bill was introduced – but not yet brought to the floor –Jim McDermott (D-WA) introduced a companion bill called the Internet Gambling Regulation and Tax Enforcement Act. It has been co-sponsored by Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Frank and John Larson (D-CT).
Last week McDermott’s bill was brought before the House Ways and Means Committee, which is the chief tax-writing committee in the House. Strangely enough, several members of this tax-writing committee – such as Charlie Rangel (D-NY) – have used ignorance of the tax code as defense for tax fraud.
Anyway, last week the committee looked at McDermott’s bill and they seemed unimpressed. McDermott stated that America was simply driving gambling revenue offshore, giving money to foreign countries that America desperately needs. He also said that his bill would generate $72 billion in revenue over 10 years from creating new taxes. Among the new taxes are plans to tax the players on their deposits up front, taxes on the casinos on the wagers themselves, taxing the players’ winnings and more. Of course, there would also be many different types of licensing fees for the casinos, just like for current brick and mortar casinos.
Two representatives from Nevada weren’t too big on the bill, which isn’t surprising, since they have to look out for the interests of Las Vegas. Republican Dean Heller said he would keep an open mind, but he is concerned about online gambling’s impact on the Vegas strip. He is also against the “deposit tax” that would take money away from players up front, whether they win or lose at the casino. The other Nevada representative on the committee, Democrat Shelley Barkley, said she supports the legalization of online gambling, but not the taxing of it – at least not right away.
I know what you’re thinking? What? A Democrat is wary about adding a new tax? How can that be? Also surprising for a Democrat, she made a good argument. She wants to legalize and regulate the new online casino industry and let it develop first before taxing it. “Because the industry is not even established yet, I can’t imagine how we can know with any degree of certainty how the special tax would affect operators or customers,” she said. Instead, she says that it should be legalized and regulated, but should not be looked at as a source for revenue. Wow, now she’s sounding like a conservative.
No decision was made on whether to move forward with the bill. This is Washington; things move slowly.