Congress to Vote on Internet Gambling Bill Tonight

Congress is scheduled to vote tonight on a bill that would outlaw the use of credit cards, checks, and electronic transfer to pay for Internet gambling not already licensed and regulated by the states.

If adopted, the bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, would not affect account wagering on horseracing.

"The bill only applies to unlawful Internet wagering," said Jay Hickey, president of the American Horse Council, the lobbying arm of the horse industry. "One provision excludes from the definition of a bet or wager any lawful transaction authorized by a business that is licensed by a state and. It is a recognition that states approve of one form of wagering or another."

Another provision does not prohibit the extension of credit for domestic, state-regulated wagering, according to Hickey.

Leach's bill is different than a much-publicized effort by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Vir., that seeks to ban Internet gambling by amending the federal Wire Act. The Leach bill, however, does contain some provision's included in Goodlatte's bill such as giving law enforcement the authority to shut down gambling Web sites through a court order. Another provision would require Internet service providers to remove hyperlinks that take Web surfers directly to gambling sites.

Tonight's vote is considered to be Congress' last chance of passing some sort of Internet gambling bill this year. Senators and representatives meet for two-year sessions and 2003 is the beginning of 108th Congress, so bills that don't pass must start all over next year.

Leach's bill has been sent to the House floor under a procedure used to expedite a vote. In order to pass under the conditions of the procedure, the bill must be supported by a two-thirds majority. Hickey said the bill is one of 35 being considered tonight.

Besides Leach's bill, U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., has filed a new bill that would outlaw Internet gambling by amending the Wire Act. Hickey said he hasn't seen a copy of the bill because it is new.