PROVO — U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon lost touch with Utahns' values when he voted against a bill that would have banned Internet gambling, Cannon's Democratic opponent contends.
But Cannon says H.R. 3125, the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, would not have accomplished what its sponsors claimed. The bill was defeated Monday in the U.S. House of Representatives. Among Congressmen from Utah (all Republicans), Cannon voted against the measure, Rep. Jim Hansen voted for it and Rep. Merrill Cook, a cosponsor, did not vote.
"I believe the Internet has much potential and we shouldn't be regulating it," said Democrat Donald Dunn, campaigning against Cannon leading up to November's election. "But we need to protect our children from pornography and gambling."
The proposed Internet Gambling Prohibition Act would have made it illegal to "place, receive or otherwise make a bet or wager" or to "send, receive, or invite information assisting in the placing of a bet or wager." Proposed penalties for those in the gambling business who violated provisions of the bill included up to four years imprisonment and a fine of at least $20,000.
But the bill made exceptions for Internet gambling on horse racing, dog racing and jai alai. The bill actually would have made betting online for those events legal for Utahns, Cannon contends.
"This bill is not about stopping gambling," he said Wednesday. "This bill is about picking the winners for gambling on the Internet. It says betting on horses is OK, but not casino-style gambling."
Cannon said he is opposed to gambling, which he called a "pernicious evil," but he couldn't vote for H.R. 3125 because it would have taken away state control over regulation of gambling. In addition, he said, the bill proposed virtually deputizing Internet service providers because it required them to disallow access to gambling sites and to inform law enforcement of such sites.
"This is just a bad bill," he said. "Totally unenforceable."
Dunn suggested the bill might have helped keep children from gambling over the Internet. A Dunn campaign statement faxed to reporters said simply, "Gambling is not a family value."
But Cannon said Dunn "did not understand the bill."
If the Internet gambling issue comes up again, Cannon said, he is prepared with an amendment that would attack the methods used by offshore-based Internet sites that offer gambling rather than just going after users and involving Internet service providers.