Internet Gambling Legislative History Example - Detailed Version

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(short version)

 

Some background:  The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) prohibits persons engaging in the business of betting or wagering from accepting an unlawful Internet gambling wager via credit, electronic fund transfer, check or other financial transaction. UIGEA requires financial institutions to identify and block the restricted transactions. 

Facts:  Funhouse Games, Inc. operates Internet poker websites, where games are played for real money.  The Seventh Internet Bank made electronic fund transfers to Funhouse from numerous customer accounts.  The transaction codes clearly indicated that the payments were for Internet poker wagers.  Federal prosecutors charged Seventh Internet Bank with violations of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.  You represent Seventh Internet Bank.

Question One:  Can you make an argument, based upon the legislative history, that poker is a game of skill, not a game of chance and not subject to UIGEA?

Question Two:  You represent Gamblers Anonymous.  The group would like to know whether there is any pending legislation on Internet gambling.

 

QUESTION ONE

Step One:  Find the Public Law Number

Find the current statute and look in the HISTORY section underneath the text of the statute to find the public law number.

  1. Search in LexisNexis, United States Code Service:  heading(internet and gambl!)
  2. LexisNexis® 31 USCS § 5361 to 31 USCS §5367
  3. History section =  "Added Oct. 13, 2006, P.L. 109-347, Title VIII, § 802(a), 120 Stat. 1952"
  4. Look at 109 P.L. 347 -  Do a Focus search for Internet Gambling.
  5. 31 USCS § 5362(10) Unlawful Internet gambling .
          (A) In general. The term "unlawful Internet gambling" means to place, receive, or otherwise knowingly transmit a bet or wager by any means which involves the use, at least in part, of the Internet where such bet or wager is unlawful under any applicable Federal or State law in the State or Tribal lands in which the bet or wager is initiated, received, or otherwise made.
  6. 31 USCS § 5362:  In this subchapter [ie, Title 31, Chapter 53, Subchapter IV, 31 USCS §5361 to §5367]:
        (1) Bet or wager. The term "bet or wager"--
          (A) means the staking or risking by any person of something of value upon the outcome of a contest of others, a sporting event, or a game subject to chance, upon an agreement or understanding that the person or another person will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome;
  7. The public law indicates the bill number:  PL 109-347 enacted 109 H.R. 4954, a House bill.

Alternative way to find the Public Law Number:

If you know the name of the act - in this case it is Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 - look in the Popular Name Table for the Public Law number.  [On LexisNexis, Federal Legal - U.S. > Find Statutes, Regulations, Administrative Materials & Court Rules > United States Code Service Materials > USCS Popular Names Table.]

Step Two:  Try to find a Compiled Legislative History

Step Three:  Find a "Legislative History"

From 109 P.L. 347 click on 109 CIS Legis. Hist. P.L. 347.  The CIS Legislative History lists all the legislative history documents and links to some of them.

Note that the CIS Legislative History lists related bills.  Some of the bills are from the same Congress, others are from Congresses prior to the one in which the bill passed.  These prior bills, and legislative history documents pertaining to them, may help in interpreting the bill that passed, depending upon how similar the language was in prior bills.

In this particular case, the Internet gambling statute was added to H.R. 4954 by the conference committee.  The language is based upon two other bills, H.R. 4411 and H.R. 4777.

"Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2005" (H.R. 4411) sought to criminalize facilitating unlawful Internet gambling transactions.  The "Internet Gambling Prohibition Act," (H.R. 4777) "was designed to expand the coverage of the Wire Act to most types of gambling services offered over the Internet."  UIGEA [H.R. 4954] does not expand the scope of the Wire Act by criminalizing Internet gambling, rather UIGEA aims to prevent Internet gambling by making it difficult for Internet gamblers to access funds.

Paul Shaker, "America's Bad Bet: How the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 will Hurt the House", 12 Fordham J. Corp. & Fin. L. 1183, 1184

Step Four:  Look at the various legislative history documents, starting with the most persuasive ones (ie, Conference Reports, House Reports and Senate Reports).  Start with the ones most recent in time.

  1. H. Rpt. 109-771 on the Safe Port Act (HR 4954) is the most recent in time, and related to the act as passed, but it offers no clues.  It just has the language of the UIGEA.
  2. LexisNexis® H. Rpt. 109-552, pt. 1 re HR 4777 [ H. Rpt. 109-552; Pt 1 ]
    • The language defining "bets or wagers" is nearly identical for HR 4954, HR 4411 and HR 4777.  See definition of wager (Word doc).  Documents pertaining to these other statutes may be helpful in determining whether poker bets are a "bet or wager" under the statute.
    • Do a Focus for "poker" - H.R. 4777 clarifies that the Wire Act prohibits not only sports betting, but traditional forms of gambling such as online poker.

3. House reports for HR 4411 do not mention poker.

 

Step Five:  If needed, look at other documents further down in the hierarchy

 

Bills

1.  The language as passed (ie, "game subject to chance") is more encompassing than the two pending bills, HR 4411 & HR 4777 (ie, "predominantly subject to chance").

2.  Bills from prior Congresses -  example 2003 S. 627 - SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
 
Congress finds that--.......

(5) gambling through the Internet, which has grown rapidly in the half-decade preceding the enactment of this Act, opens up the possibility of immediate, individual, 24-hour access in every home to the full range of wagering opportunities on sporting events or casino-like contests, such as roulette, slot machines, poker, or black-jack; ............

3.  Many other bills from prior Congresses.......
 

Congressional Record

1.  Search Legal > Legislation & Politics - U.S. & U.K. > U.S. Congress > Congressional Record for 105th-109th Congress for internet /5 gambl! and poker

Ms. BERKLEY:  On Wednesday morning I came to the floor of the House to protest the fact that the Republican leadership was holding up the Department of Defense bill because they wanted to attach a ban on Internet gaming.  It was more important to the Republican leadership to keep people from playing poker on their computers in their homes than passing a defense bill that would help protect our troops serving this Nation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the rest of the world.  So the last bill that we pass before we adjourn on the vital and important issue of port security contains the ban on Internet gaming.

LexisNexis® 152 Cong Rec H 8021

2.  While it does not relate to the question at hand, it is interesting to look at the Congressional Record between when the Conference report was issued and when the vote took place.  Look at the Congressional Record after Sept 29, because that was when the Internet Gambling language was added.  Do a search for "Internet Gambling" within the time frame 9/28/2006-10/15/2006.  The Congressional Record shows the last minute nature of adding the gambling language to the Ports Act.

LexisNexis® 152 Cong Rec S 10810 :

Sen Lieberman

This unilateral, partisan process also resulted in the eleventh hour insertion of a bill that purportedly outlaws Internet gambling but which may have unintended consequences.  This issue clearly deserves more deliberation, and it is unfortunate that such a measure has been added to a critical bill designed to protect the Nation's ports, legislation which this Congress must pass.  I hope that the Senate will return to this issue and give it the attention it deserves, in the future.

LexisNexis® 152 Cong Rec H 8026 , H8029:

Rep Leach:

Mr. Speaker, I rise to note that folded into the SAFE Port Act is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act which is one of the most important pieces of family legislation this Congress has ever considered.  Internet gambling restraints have been under review for four Congresses. ...
 

Presidential Statements

FDsys -  Compilation of Presidential Documents

- Oct 13, 2006 - Remarks on Signing the Safe Port Act - makes zero mention of Internet Gambling

 

Hearings

Hearing before the Subcom on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security to consider H.R. 4777, the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act of 2006 CIS-NO: 2006-H521-80

The full text of this document is not on LexisNexis.

Try looking on FDsys Copy of Hearing.

"I see students walking around my campus with T-shirts advertising illegal poker sites, and they don't know it is illegal. " -- quote from hearing witness John Kindt, Professor at the University of Illinois School of Law.

 

HOW TO DO ON THOMAS:

Start by looking at the Bill Summary and Status Report for HR 4954. (Click on Bills, Resolutions, then click on Search Bill Summary and Status.  [Nothing that helpful.]

Search for other bills in 109th Congress for "internet gambling."  Look at the Bill Summary and Status Report for HR 4411 and HR 4777.  There are links to House reports, etc.

 

HOW TO DO ON WESTLAW:

Pull up Public Law 109-347.  There is a link to "reports" (not helpful).

Look in USCCAN-REP -  Search for 2006 and "internet gambling."  Limit to "poker."  Several reports, including HOUSE REPORT NO. 109-552(I)

 

QUESTION TWO

Any pending legislation on Internet gambling?

1. Thomas -  Search legislation in current Congress by keywords or bill number.

OR 2.  Any of the sources for bills that contain current bills can be used too.

OR 3.  To find pending bills on a particular topic, try: United States Senate: Active Legislation (does not list ALL legislation)

Setting Up Alerts -

(1) GovTrack.us - Track pending legislation by RSS feed (free service).

OR

(2) You can also track bills by using LexisNexis / Westlaw "Saved Searches".

  • LexisNexis -  Legal > Legislation & Politics - U.S. & UK > U.S. Congress > Bill Tracking Report - Current Congress.
    Do a search of the the Bill Tracking Report database and save the search.
  • Westlaw -  Database Name: Bill Tracking - Federal - Summaries & Status
    Database Identifier:  US-BILLTRK

 

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