House Deals Online Gambling A Blow
The House tried to strike a
blow against Internet gambling Wednesday with passage of a bill to make it
illegal to use credit cards or any form of electronic payment for the illegal
"We shut off the money, we shut off the sites," said Rep. Spencer
The bill passed the House on a voice vote. It now goes to the Senate, where it
faces an uncertain future because only a few weeks are left in the legislative
"It may be impossible to keep illegal gambling sites off the World Wide
Web, but it is entirely possible to prevent American credit card companies from
completing these transactions that these crooks need to make their money, and
that's what this bill does," said Rep. Joseph Pitt, R-Pa.
Experts estimate that revenues from Internet gambling, largely conducted by
offshore companies because of a ban in the United States, could exceed $4.2
billion in 2003.
The bill, championed by Rep. James Leach, R-Iowa, would make it a crime for a
gambling business to accept credit cards, checks or fund transfers in connection
with unlawful Internet gambling. "Internet gambling serves no legitimate
purpose in our society - it is a danger to the family, it is a danger to society
at large," Leach said.
Since Internet gambling sites are overseas and beyond the reach of U.S. law
enforcers, American officials can seek injunctions against American banks and
credit card companies to stop them from processing any credit card transaction
or other financial instrument with a specified illegal Internet gambling site.
Lawmakers said Internet gambling especially preys on college-age youth who have
access to credit cards and computers but no way to pay the bills they run up.
"I think this is an extremely important bill for all America, but
especially for our youth, who use computers for hours and hours per day,"
said Rep. Jim LaFalce, D-N.Y.
Government investigators with the General Accounting Office said last week that
Internet gambling is susceptible to money laundering and related criminal