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Ban on Internet gambling gets House committee OK

WASHINGTON (BP)–A ban on gambling on the Internet moved out of committee in the U.S. House of Representatives April 6.

The House Judiciary Committee approved the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act with a 21-8 vote. No date has been set for a vote on the House floor, a committee staff member said.

The Senate passed a similar bill in November.

The House legislation, H.R. 3125, is designed to update a 1961 law prohibiting betting over telephone wires. It targets the operators of Internet gambling enterprises rather than the gamblers. It also provides protection for Internet service providers that comply with notification and other requirements.

The bill does not apply to pari-mutuel wagering, which encompasses betting on horse and dog racing, as well as jai-alai; some already legal gambling activities by Native American tribes, if conducted on Indian land; or fantasy sports leagues.

The penalty for violating the ban would be as much as four years in prison and a substantial fine.

Barrett Duke, a Southern Baptist specialist on the gambling issue, said he was encouraged by the vote.

“The strength of the vote indicates considerable concern in Congress about the threat posed by Internet gambling,” said Duke, vice president of research for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Today, a person can hardly surf the Net without being bombarded by advertising to visit gambling websites. With current legal gambling coming close to $600 billion a year, the last thing we need is more gambling.

“Though I hope that one day we will reach the point when we realize all gambling is destructive, this bill makes a good first step in stopping this predatory behavior. I commend the House Judiciary Committee for having the courage of their convictions and hope the rest of our lawmakers will be as courageous.”

The bill “protects the right of citizens in each state to decide through their state legislatures if they want to allow and regulate gambling within their borders and not have that right taken away by offshore, fly-by-night operators,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R.-Va., in a written release.

Goodlatte is the chief House sponsor of the legislation.

The bill has received the endorsement of such organizations as the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the Major League Baseball Players Association, the National Football League and the National Association of Attorneys General.

The National Gambling Impact Study Commission recommended a ban on Internet wagering in its report, which was issued last June after two years of work.