House Approves Internet Gambling Bill

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:06pm EDT

( - In a vote of 317 to 93, the House Tuesday approved a bill that would prevent people from using credit cards online to gamble.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Jim Leach (R-Iowa), makes it clear that gambling online is illegal, with the exception of horse racing and state lotteries.

"This legislation provides real protection to American families from destructive and unlawful Internet gambling," said Family Research Council Vice President for Government Affairs Tom McClusky in a statement.

"With the new authority granted and the additional clarity brought to federal law, financial institutions and law enforcement authorities will be able to hold accountable the gambling interest that circumvent state and federal law," said McClusky.

"For more than ten years, Congress has attempted to provide the enforcement tools necessary to detect and deter this $12 billion off-shore gaming industry. Unfortunately, those efforts were obstructed by the nefarious dealings of Jack Abramoff and his associates," McClusky said. "The time is now for a bill to be delivered to the President for his signature."

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said the Internet has helped the U.S. economy grow and is a "great resource" for people.

"However, as more Internet-based companies add jobs and revenue to our economy we must be wary of illegal gambling sites that offer fronts to criminals for money laundering, drug trafficking and terrorist financing," said Hastert.

"Internet-based companies must abide by U.S. regulations that protect our children, citizens and the integrity of American business. The Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act will do just that," Hastert said.

"It seeks to protect our children from gambling sites at home, keep our hard-earned money in the bank, and put the criminals that seek to take advantage of our family earnings in jail," added Hastert.

Critics of the bill, such as Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), said the measure would not be feasible and it would be better to regulate the gambling industry instead of banning online gambling altogether.

"Prohibition didn't work for alcohol. It won't work for gambling," the Associated Press quoted Frank as saying.

Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), who lobbied to remove exemptions for horse racing and state lotteries, said the bill is unfair because it shields those industries while banning sports betting, casino games and card games, according to the AP.

Her sentiments were echoed by the Poker Players Alliance. "They call it a prohibition. It's really Congress picking winners and losers," the AP quoted Michael Bolcerek, president of the Poker Players Alliance as saying.

The bill's future in the Senate is uncertain, because it is not considered a high priority.

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