Monday, October 16, 2006

Bush makes Internet gambling in US illegal

Placing bets over the Internet was effectively criminalized by the federal government Friday, as lawmakers work to eliminate an activity pursued by up to 23 million Americans who wagered an estimated $6 billion last year.

Attached to a port-security bill signed by President Bush on Friday was the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which prohibits online gamblers from using credit cards, checks and electronic-fund transfers to place and settle bets.

The law leaves enforcement up to banks and other U.S. financial institutions, some of which fought the legislation.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., said he opposes all gambling, citing its "ill effects on society," but particularly Internet gambling, which led him to draft the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., attached Goodlatte's bill to the port-security bill to ensure its passage and Bush's signature.

While proponents decried the effects of gambling on society, opponents pointed to the popularity of Internet gambling and compared the new law to the Prohibition amendment of 1919, which led to the rise of illegal speakeasies and organized crime.

The new law is potentially crippling to a worldwide industry whose biggest customer has been the United States. Several online wagering businesses already have pulled out of the United States and some have collapsed, including publicly traded companies in Britain, where online betting is legal and regulated.

In the United States, the Justice Department and federal courts are unable to agree on whether Internet gambling is illegal.

The full story

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