July 24, 2006

Gambling Bill doesn’t cover Prediction Markets

Prediction Markets By: ams

The Internet Gambling Act (HR4411) that passed the House earlier this month is a curious compromise. There’s been a lot of discussion elsewhere about the fact that this bill won’t stop gambling on the Internet, and doesn’t even seem intended to try; I’ll leave that issue alone.  The only point I wanted to make is that the bill only covers sports betting (and pure lotteries).

The definitions say

(1)The term `bet or wager'--
(A) means the staking [...]  of value upon the outcome of a contest of others, a sporting
event, or a game subject to chance [...];
(B) includes the purchase of a chance [...] to win a lottery (which [...] is predominantly
subject to chance);
(C) includes any scheme described in [Unlawful sports gambling law];
(D) includes any [..] information pertaining to the [...] movement of funds [for] the
business of betting or wagering; and
(E) does not include [commodities, securities, derivatives, insurance, and fantasy sports]

Of course, the lack of coverage of prediction markets in this bill doesn’t make them legal, it just leaves them out of the effects of this bill. Most of the effect of the bill is to make it harder to move funds into and out of gambling accounts, rather than to prohibit anything in particular.  It’s not clear whether credit card handlers or banks would notice the distinction, but this may leave an opportunity for someone to run a market long enough to challenge the law.
I think it’s odd that they drew the line so narrowly. But there’s time for the Senate to change that if they pass something, and if there are any differences between the House and Senate versions, anything can happen in reconciliation.

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