On May 19, 2010, the House Committee on Ways & Means will hold a hearing on tax proposals related to legislation to legalize Internet gaming. The Ways & Means Committee hearing will focus on “current tax laws and reporting requirements applicable to wagering in the United States” and also will consider tax and other proposals related to legislation pending in Congress to license and regulate Internet gambling activities.
Internet gaming in the United States has been a controversial issue for much of the last decade following a U.S. Fifth District Court of Appeals 2002 ruling (http://tinyurl.com/hzn0) that the Interstate Wire Act of 1961 (commonly referred to as the Federal Wire Act) prohibits electronic transmission of information for sports betting across telecommunications lines but affirmed a lower court ruling that the act "'in plain language' does not prohibit Internet gambling on a game of chance". Legislative efforts to ban Internet gaming culminated in 2006 with the inclusion of provisions in a port security measure (http://tinyurl.com/2b4rm59) that made transactions from banks or similar institutions to online gambling sites illegal. In response to this change, numerous bills have been introduced since 2007 that would repeal or revise the prohibition and once again allow Americans to wager online while taxing the practice. The timing of the hearing is especially important as regulations issued last year by the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors implementing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 are set to go into effect on June 1, 2010.
The hearing will likely touch on HR 4976, the Internet Gambling Regulation and Tax Enforcement Act (http://tinyurl.com/26ktw3k), which was sponsored by Ways & Means Committee member Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.). According to a Congressional Research Service summary of the bill, HR 4976 would amend the Internal Revenue Code to:
Rep. McDermott’s bill currently has three co-sponsors: fellow Ways & Means Committee members Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and John Larson (D-Conn.), and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who has authored a measure (HR 2267) to open the Internet gaming industry in the United States to foreign operators. The bill has been referred to both the House Ways & Means Committee and the House Committee on Education & Labor. This hearing could be an important first step toward a markup of the bill in the House Ways & Means Committee. Both Rep. McDermott and Chairman Frank have expressed their hope to move their respective bills through committee markups in June.
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