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Aaron Todd

Aaron  Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

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Column: Goodlatte Bill Lacks Backbone

30 May 2006

By Aaron Todd

Shame on Bob Goodlatte.

For the fourth time in 10 years, the Virginia congressman is pushing legislation that he says will curb Internet gambling in the United States. He has passionately pursued the legislation since he introduced the first iteration in 1997 and has made it a cornerstone of his legislative agenda.

While Goodlatte might finally get his wish and see the bill become a law, the legislation that moved through the U.S. House Judiciary Committee last Thursday is riddled with contradictions and will likely have no effect whatsoever on Internet gambling.

Goodlatte claims that he's trying protect American children from online gambling companies. If only his actions backed up his words.

"For too long our children have been placed in harm's way as online gambling has been permitted to flourish into a $12 billion industry," Goodlatte said in a press release when he submitted the legislation in February.

Apparently, Goodlatte doesn't believe this statement applies to horse racing.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) put forward an amendment to Goodlatte's bill during last Thursday's markup session that would clarify the bill's stance on horse racing, particularly regarding wagers placed by minors.

"We ought to be sure that this legislation, which is purported to limit Internet gambling, does not actually encourage it, especially for children," Conyers said. "The last thing we should be doing as a Congress is putting children at risk on the Internet. My amendment would eliminate the loophole in the bill for interstate bets by children."

Sounds like a gimme to me. Who wouldn't want to keep minors from gambling on the Internet? And this is one where Mr. Goodlatte should definitely be on board.

"I think that this committee should again stay out of this specific issue with regard to this measure," Goodlatte said.

That's a puzzling response, especially from a congressman who says he wants to protect minors from online gambling.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) already calls for its members to make sure that the laws of the state are followed regarding underage wagers on horse racing.

"Virtually every single one of our NTRA race track organizations is very proactive in (assuring that) patrons must be of a certain age to wager on pari-mutuel horse racing," said Keith Chamblin, Senior Vice President of Communications for the NTRA. "Age verification is required on all of the pari-mutuel (Web) sites that I'm aware of."

Sure, the industry is currently doing a good job policing itself. But why not make sure it stays that way?

At Goodlatte's urging, the amendment failed 17-14, and the legislation was sent to the full House without a provision that would ban minors from making Internet wagers on horse races.

It is unclear why Goodlatte thinks the amendment requiring age verification would put the bill in jeopardy. (Goodlatte's office did not offer a comment on the vote despite repeated attempts to obtain one.)

While the bill makes it illegal to run an Internet gambling operation in the U.S. (no known Internet gambling operations currently operate within U.S. jurisdiction), it does not make it illegal to place a wager with an offshore company on the Internet. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) offered an amendment to change that as well, but Goodlatte again helped strike the amendment down, and the result is a bill which will have little effect on the Internet gambling habits of Americans.

Goodlatte was willing to compromise his beliefs to get his bill to the House floor. Fortunately for those who enjoy gambling and playing poker on the Internet, the bill resembles its author: It has no backbone.

In his previous life, Aaron Todd was a sports journalist by day and a poker player by night. He can now be found covering the poker beat for Casino City and making horrendously unsuccessful bluffs in his home game. Write to Aaron at

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