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Adjournment threatens bill targeting Internet gambling

WASHINGTON (BP)–The House of Representatives has passed legislation attacking the growing problem of Internet gambling, but little time remains for Senate action before Congress adjourns in October.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act, H.R. 556, would bar any person involved in a gambling business from accepting credit cards, electronic fund transfers or checks from people wagering on the Internet. The House has approved the measure by voice vote.

Internet gambling businesses primarily operate offshore, especially in the Caribbean, since they are prohibited in the United States. Online casinos have grown from an estimated 90 sites in 1998 to more than 1,500.

Internet gambling “serves no legitimate purpose in our society. It is a danger to the family. It is a danger to society at large. It should be ended,” Rep. Jim Leach, R.-Iowa, chief sponsor of the bill, said from the House floor Oct. 1 before the measure was approved.

“It is a myth to think that gambling alone only affects gamblers,” Leach said. “Gambling losses and the resulting debt spill over to the financial and social services system and to those who may never engage in gambling.”

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called Leach’s bill a “creative approach to addressing this difficult issue” in a Sept. 19 letter to the congressman.

“By attacking the source of payment, [the] bill eliminates the revenue for gambling brokers,” Land said. “Research demonstrates with clarity what we know from personal experience — the effect of gambling on the families of our nation is enormous. It exploits those with the least financial resources as they chase a dream of easy wealth. The privacy and easy availability of the Internet only exacerbates the concern.”

Punishment under the bill would be a fine and/or a prison sentence of as many as five years.

In addition to the ERLC, other supporters of the legislation include Family Research Council, Christian Coalition, Major League Baseball, the National Football League and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

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