Internet Gambling Ban Passes House with Racing Exemption

The Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday evening with a carve-out that would exempt horse racing and other state-sanctioned gambling activities.

Introduced as H.R. 2143 by Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama, the bill was approved by a vote of 319-104 after lengthy debate. Several attempts were made on the House floor to amend the bill and eliminate horse racing's exemption, but none were successful.

Congressmen from key racing states made passionate pleas during debate to keep the exemption intact, including Harold Rogers of Kentucky. Rogers told his colleagues if the amendment passed, "we might as well call this the horse racing prohibition act because it will literally kill that industry."

The amendment was defeated by a vote of 237-186. Now the bill will go before the U.S. Senate.

"This is a good day for horse racing," said National Thoroughbred Racing Association deputy commissioner Greg Avioli, who was a key lobbyist on behalf of the racing industry. "We explained the value of horse racing to states and emphasized exactly what the bill would mean.

"Now the Senate is going to have a lot of the same questions that we will need to answer. But I think there is support for the bill."

The Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act will outlaw the use of credit cards, wire transfers, and other methods to fund gambling accounts for Web sites already deemed illegal by the federal government, mainly off-shore operations.

However, Visa recently stopped allowing its credit cards from being used for any form of online gambling, including state-sanctioned pari-mutuel sites. Avioli said industry officials are currently working with Visa to help develop a system that would differentiate between legal and illegal online wagering.