More than 100 lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bipartisan bill on Thursday to outlaw the $12 billion Internet gambling industry, according to the Reuters news service.
"The explosive growth of the Internet has provided a means for gambling operations to evade existing anti-gambling laws," Rep. Rick Boucher, a Virginia Democrat told Reuters. "These Internet gambling Web sites typically operate offshore and often serve as a prime vehicle for money laundering and other criminal enterprises."
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican and chief sponsor of the bill, said Internet gambling has mushroomed into a $12 billion industry that also threatens minors.
The bill would update an existing ban against interstate gambling over telephone lines to also outlaw use of the Internet and related technology, Goodlatte said.
A total of 115 House lawmakers co-sponsored the bill.
Reuters reported the legislation would specifically prohibit a gambling business from accepting credit cards, checks, wire and Internet transfers in illegal gambling transactions. It also would set a maximum prison sentence of five years for violations.
Goodlatte and Boucher previously introduced similar legislation but the bill was defeated in 2000 due in part to efforts by Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who represented gambling interests, according to both lawmakers.
Abramoff pleaded guilty to fraud charges in early January and is cooperating with prosecutors in a corruption probe that could implicate lawmakers and officials across Washington.
No companion bill has yet been introduced in the U.S. Senate, a Goodlatte spokeswoman said.