If you thought the internet gambling bill was dead in the U.S. Senate, you're sorely mistaken. It seems that we have a mechanic on Capitol Hill. The deck may be stacked against us. Okay, I've run out of poker cliches.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist may be attempting a legislative trick to get this bill passed. The Associated Press is reporting that Frist is planning to tack the internet gambling bill onto a massive defense authorization bill that deals with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Why would he do this? It's simple.
There is not enough support in the Senate for Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2005 to pass. In fact, there isn't even enough support for it to reach a vote. The only way this bill goes anywhere is for a Senator to find a way to tack it on to something that is guaranteed to pass.
It's dirty politics. But it's nothing new.
As the AP reporter pointed out, Frist is not running for re-election to the Senate, instead he is eyeing the 2008 presidential race. Two weeks ago, Frist spoke during a hearing at Coe College in Cedar Rapids and said he would do what he could to get his legislation passed. The House version of the bill is sponsored by Iowa Congressman Jim Leach. Oh... and Iowa holds the first presidential caucus of the 2008 race.
According to the KnoxNews, the NFL sent their senior manager of football operations to the same hearing. Former Iowa Hawkeye and NFL player Merton Hanks said, "I also hear from [current players] that they are receiving increased pressure from another group of so-called supporters. While it remains a minority of the fans, today's players perceive it to be a growing threat. I do not think that this increased betting is healthy for the sport I love, nor is it good for the players who are playing as hard as they can to win games, not to cover bets."
Yeah, that's right. A sport that allows a Super Bowl team to be more juiced than San Francisco Bay baseball teams circa 1996 is feeling "increased pressure" from the hordes of online sports bettors.
Our politicians continue to be more interested in pandering than in facing reality. This industry is regulated and taxed in dozens and dozens of countries around the world. It has not been demonstrated to be causing an increase in problem gambling in the world's youth nor has it caused widespread cheating in sports where betting is prevelant, like soccer.
We can not let this stand. If we don't make our voices heard, politicians will continue to make the politically expedient decision at the expense of common sense. If you're looking for some inspiration on what you can do, read the letter my father emailed to Sen. Frist's office:
I am very disappointed to see my Republican leader conducting business in the manner of the Democrats "business as usual" format. To backdoor a piece of legislation such as the Ban on Internet Gambling Bill to a defense bill is repulsive and offensive.
I thought Republicans - and I'm a staunch conservative currently at odds with my party over many things which have disappointed me - didn't hide dirty laundry inside some other bill in order to slip it through the system.
Believe what you want about internet gambling - I personally have no problem with it - but if you want to legislate it, then have the courage to bring it to the floor of the Senate on its own merits. Don't hide behind the skirt of a defense bill.
Internet gambling needs to be regulated. Don't give me some moral argument about pervading decent homes with gambling. Gambling seems to be fine for politicians as long as the government entities get a piece of it. So legislate internet gambling, control it, and take your piece.
But please rethink this idea of piggy-backing an important piece of legisation and looking like a Democrat while you do it. Republicans have convictions and stand up for what we think is right. I'd have more respect for you for bringing this legislation to the floor on its own merits, even if I disagreed with your position.
If you're wondering, you can read the text of the internet gambling bill and follow its progress here. You can also glance at the massive bill to which Frist wants to hide the online gambling bill here.