WASHINGTON (BP)–The House of Representatives passed with a convincing majority July 11 a bill to restrict Internet gambling.
The House voted 317-93 for the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act, H.R. 4411, which seeks to ban most Internet gambling. The measure would update a 1961 law, which prohibits betting over telephone wires, to cover online gambling. It also would require financial institutions to block credit card and other payments to Internet gambling businesses, which are primarily located overseas.
It is uncertain if the Senate will act on the legislation in this Congress.
The legislation does not bar already permissible pari-mutuel wagering, which includes betting on horse racing, dog racing and jai-alai. It also will not adversely affect state lotteries, but it will restrict online poker.
Though the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission supports a more expansive prohibition on Internet gambling, it endorsed the bill as a “forceful, first step.”
ERLC President Richard Land said the vote marked “a good day for families and a good day for America.”
“This $12 billion-a-year industry has been a major contributor to the rapid increase in gambling addictions and helped bring financial and emotional misery to millions of American families,” Land told Baptist Press. “It’s good to see the people’s representatives step up and resist the well-paid lobbyists of the parasitic gambling industry in the United States.”
Supporters of the House-approved measure said Americans are expected to pay $5.9 billion, about half of the $12 billion wagered worldwide on Internet gambling, to overseas online casinos this year. Online gambling sites frequently act as fronts for money laundering, drug trafficking and financing for terrorists, bill sponsors said.
The secretive nature of Internet gambling has resulted in its widespread use by minors and young adults, as well as addiction problems for people of all ages, its opponents said.
“Virtual betting parlors have attempted to avoid the application of United States law by locating themselves offshore and out of our jurisdictional reach,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R.-Va., a sponsor of the bill. “These offshore, fly-by-night Internet gambling operators are unlicensed, untaxed and unregulated and are sucking billions of dollars out of the United States.”
The House-passed bill is a combination of two proposals, one introduced by Goodlatte and the other by Rep. Jim Leach, R.-Iowa.
The House vote by parties was: Republicans, 201-17, and Democrats, 115-76. Vermont Rep. Bernie Sanders, an independent, voted for it.
Under the legislation, the maximum prison sentence for a violation of the updated 1961 law would increase from two years to five years.