Lawmakers Propose Online Gambling Ban

Virginia congressmen Bob Goodlatte (R) and Rick Boucher (D) have re-introduced the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, legislation which, if enacted as law, would make electronic gambling illegal in the United States, with penalities of up to five years in prison. In addition, the legislation would grant law enforcement the authority to stop credit card and other forms of electronic payments, and prohibit businesses from accepting credit card and electronic payments for gambling transactions.

“The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act brings the current ban against interstate gambling up to speed with the development of new technology,” said Goodlatte in a statement. “Illegal online gambling doesn’t just hurt gamblers and their families, it hurts the economy by draining dollars from the United States and serve as a vehicle for money laundering.”

The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act would update and extend the 1960’s era Wire Act which made it illegal to make wagers via the telephone. There’s no clear legal consensus on how the Wire Act applies to wagers placed via the Internet. It has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.

Representative Goodlatte has introduced the legislation on two previous occasions, although it did not receive enough support to pass the House. Goodlatte has blamed the previous failures of the legislation on disgraced über-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who recently pled guilty to felony crimes involving Native American casinos. Goodlatte explicitly blames Abramoff for the legislation’s previous failure and clearly hopes, with Abramoff out of the picture, the proposal will move forward. “For too long our children have been placed in harm’s way as online gambling has been permitted to flourish into a $12 billion industry.”

Critics have argued that previous versions of the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act were mired in jurisdictional and enforcement issues, and would simply force Internet gambling operations, already largely operating offshore, further underground and to lesser-regulated nationalities. Counter-proposals have included regulating and licensing online gambling establishments operating within the United States, much the way brick-and-mortar casinos are regulated by states and municipalities.