A group of U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday vowed to gear up efforts to ban gambling on the Internet, pushing for legislation that would, among other things, bar the use of credit cards for online wagers.
On Tuesday the lawmakers — with key members from both the House and Senate — told a House panel that legislation would be introduced in the next two weeks seeking an outright ban on online gambling, an industry that has grown dramatically over the past several years.
These bills would go beyond a measure that has already been introduced in the House that aims to curb such gambling by barring the use of many financial instruments to pay gambling debts to online casinos or sports-wagering sites.
“We’re going to pass legislation in this Congress that will … make Internet gambling illegal. I’m convinced of that,” said Sen. Jon Kyl, who sponsored a bill last year with such a ban that had passed the Senate.
A similar measure introduced by Virginia Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte was narrowly defeated in the House last year.
So far this year, Iowa Republican Rep. Jim Leach has sponsored a measure that would bar the use of credit cards, wire transfers, or checks to pay for Internet gambling debts, while not seeking to ban on-line gambling altogether.
But Kyl and Goodlatte told the House financial institutions subcommittee Leach’s provisions must be bolstered by an outright ban of Internet gambling.
Both approaches, they said, were necessary to limit U.S. citizens’ access to the fast-growing, unregulated industry.
While the outright ban sponsored by Goodlatte and Kyl would be difficult to enforce, the Leach bill would be toothless without a clear definition of what was illegal, the lawmakers cautioned.
“They really need each other,” Goodlatte told Reuters after the hearing.
The lawmakers’ efforts come at a key time as Internet-based casinos and sports-betting facilities, many operating from offshore bases beyond U.S. jurisdiction, have proliferated over the last few years from an estimated 25 sites in the mid-1990s to more than 1,200 today, according to a recent estimate by Bear Stearns.
Revenues at the outfits doubled last year to $2.2 billion, according to Christiansen Capital Advisors, and are expected to grow to $6.4 billion by 2003. Roughly half of that money comes from the U.S.
Quebec Police Assessing Online Semua Situs Slot Mpo Casinos at Kahnawake
“Quebec police could hold the cards in an ongoing dispute between the province and a Mohawk band that has been running online casinos.
“The results of an investigation by the Surete du Quebec (French Provincial Police) could resolve whether online casinos are illegal, or whether the provincial government will have to rework its gambling regulations to maintain control of the lucrative industry.
“The government’s position is that while there may not be any specifics in the gaming regulations to address virtual casinos, anything not sanctioned by the province is a no-no.
“`For us, theoretically at least, this is illegal,’ said Francois Moisan, spokesman for Quebec’s alcohol, racing and gaming board.
“But the Mohawks of Kahnawake disagree.
“Through their company Mohawk Internet Technologies, the Mohawks have been making money using an Internet-service provider, or ISP, that offers online gambling.
“Credit-card bets on games such as poker, bingo and slots, are placed in faraway computers that hook up to the Kahnawake server through the Internet.
“But representatives have said in the past that the company is not afraid of being shut down because the Internet is in a gray zone when it comes to the law and, technically, the gambling isn’t taking place on the reserve.
“However, one information-technology lawyer said police are on solid legal ground if they choose to shut down the online casinos.
“Sunny Handa, a Montreal lawyer and professor at McGill University suggested politics could become more of a determining factor for police and government than the law.”