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Bill to ban gambling at online casinos gets another chance in the United States

 Online Casinos are looking at tough times in the near future if a Virginia congressman gets his way. The US House Judiciary Committee will mark up a bill introduced by Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R) that would ban almost all of online casinos, including bets on sporting events at online casinos and games of chance -- namely poker, which has enjoyed a boom in recent years with the proliferation of thousands of online casinos on the internet. The online casinos legislation could get an unexpected boost from the Jack Abramoff scandal. The disgraced lobbyist was key to blocking one of Goodlatte's three previous attempts to ban online casinos, and backlash over corruption charges could help the current online casinos effort. The bill would update the Federal Wire Wager Act, which prohibits gambling over telephone lines but may not apply to online casinos because not all Web traffic travels over phone lines. It also would force banks to block transactions related to online casinos and would empower law enforcement agencies to force Internet service providers to remove or disable links to online casinos.

"I am a big advocate of opening up the Internet to all kinds of legitimate uses," said Goodlatte, who is co-chairman of the Congressional Internet Caucus. "But we don't want the Internet to become the Wild West of the 21st century." Goodlatte said he opposes online casinos and gambling in general because it leads to "a whole host of ills in society." The bill effectively would prevent state lotteries from taking their games online like online casinos, because technology does not exist to keep gambling within a state. Fantasy sports leagues would be exempt. Goodlatte said his bill is neutral on parimutuel horse wagering, which has an online component that is the cause of an ongoing struggle between Congress and the Justice Department.

The legislative fight over an earlier version of Goodlatte's bill was at the center of the Abramoff lobbying scandal, which led to guilty pleas by Abramoff and four former associates, including three former congressional aides. Abramoff's client, a gambling services company, opposed the bill, and the lobbyist funneled $50,000 of the client's money to the wife of a key aide to former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.). The aide, Tony Rudy, pleaded guilty to charges that he conspired with Abramoff to corrupt public officials and defraud his clients. Questions about DeLay's role contributed to DeLay's decision to leave Congress.
The current online casinos bill is backed by religious groups such as the Southern Baptist Convention, professional sports leagues such as the NFL and online-auction giant eBay Inc. On the other side are members of Congress from casino-supported Nevada, who introduced rival legislation; casinos; an organization of small banks that says its members do not have the manpower to block all gambling transactions, even at online casinos; and a group that hopes not to get dealt out, the Poker Players Alliance.

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