Internet Gambling Legislative History Example - Short Version

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(detailed 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 electronic fund transfer or other financial transactions.  UIGEA requires financial institutions to identify and block the restricted transactions.

Question One:  You represent a bank that has been charged with making electronic fund transfers for Internet poker wagers.  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.


Step One:  Find the Public Law Number

  • Look in Westlaw - USCA Popular Name Table (USCA-POP)  for Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act
  • Pub.L. 109-347, Title VIII, Oct. 13, 2006, 120 Stat. 1952
  • Corresponding US CODE SECTIONS – 31 USC 5361-5367
  • Pull up one of the US Code Sections.  The Public Law Numbers are listed underneath the text of the statute in the CREDITS section.  If this code section had been modified by subsequent public laws, you would see that in the credits section too.  Also, under Historical and Statutory Notes, it would say how the subsequent legislation modified the US Code section.  You will see an example in our hands-on exercise.

Step Two:  Find the U.S. Code Section

31 USCA § 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.

·31 USCA § 5362
(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;

Step Three:  Find the Bill Number corresponding to the Public Law

From the Popular Name Table, click on a US Code Section, then click on the Public Law, and that will tell you the Bill Number.  In this case, 109 H.R. 4954, a House bill.

Step Four:  Look for a Compiled Legislative History 

Look on HeinOnline and the Law Library catalog.  None for this statute.  It is not major legislation.

See sources for  Compiled Legislative Histories.

Step Five:  Find a CIS Legislative History 

  • Use Proquest Congressional.  From the Law Library Home Page click on Databases and Research, then Law Databases, then scroll to LexisNexis Congressional.
  • At the Proquest Congressional template, click on Legislative Histories, then the Get a Document tab.  Do a search for 109-347 (ie, the Public Law number)
  • 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.  [I found this out via a law review article - 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.]
  • See How do I find federal legislative history documents for more info.

Step Six:  Look at the Various Legislative History Documents

  • Start with the most persuasive ones Conference Committee Reports, House and Senate Reports.  Start with the ones most recent in time.
  • HRep No. 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.
  • HRep No. 109-552, pt. 1 - re HR 4777 -  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 search of HRep No. 109-552 for "poker" -  Report indicates that H.R. 4777 clarifies that the Wire Act prohibits not only sports betting, but traditional forms of gambling such as online poker.

Step Seven:  If needed, look at other documents further down the hierarchy -


  • 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").
  • There are links to a lot of bills on the “Legislative History.”  You may want to search a database of bills to quickly find something relevant.  For example, search the bills database in Lexis Congressional (internet /s gambling and poker).
  • 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; ............

Congressional Record

Search Congressional Record on LexisNexis Congressional for:  internet /s 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.

152 Cong Rec H 8021



BE AWARE that there are other sources for these documents.  See the Legislative History Research Guide - Types of Federal Legislative History Documents to see where you can find bills, congressional record, etc.  Sources may cover certain time periods but not others.



Thomas -  Search legislation in current Congress by keywords or bill number.  Try a search for Internet Gambling.

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

Setting Up Alerts -

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


(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

LexisNexis "Legislative Impact"

  • Real-time analysis of how proposed legislation impacts existing law.
  • Search for Legislative Impact in Find A Source
  • Try it for HR 2267 in the 111th Congress