Internet Gambling Bill Passes; Racing Exempted

Racing's right to offer account wagering under the amended 1978 Interstate Horseracing Act was reaffirmed in Internet gaming legislation passed early Saturday morning by the U.S. House and Senate.

The measure bans other forms of Internet wagering and sets harsher penalties for wagering companies that use credit cards or fund transfers, including checks. Racing, though, gained an exemption under the IHA.

The language, attached to a politically popular port security bill, passed overwhelmingly in both houses and was sent to President Bush for his signature. The protections were contained in both measures and are similar to provisions in other bills introduced over the last few years.

"This is a very significant landmark recognition by the U.S. government of our industry's legal right to conduct wagering under the IHA and of our industry's important position as an agri-business that supports 500,000 jobs," said Greg Avioli, CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) and Breeders' Cup Limited. "The bill also includes language that will prevent the addition of harmful elements in any rulemaking required by the bill. This language was crucial for our industry."

Other forms of gaming were opposed to the language. It appeared stalled as late as Friday morning. On Friday afternoon, as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House leaders reached agreements on other controversial issues in the port security bill, support built for the I-Gaming legislation. Religious and family groups - as well as the NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA and other sports leagues - supported the bill.