Senate Attacks Internet Gambling, House Ignores It

The United States Senate is taking relatively fast steps to curtail gambling on the Internet, but its counterparts on the other side of the Capitol have yet to pay attention to the issue.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed S.692, the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act of 1999 last week just 11 weeks after the measure was introduced by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Arizona).

The bill moved unusually quickly through Judiciary and its Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government, emerging virtually unchanged June 17 for referral to the full Senate for a vote. Since the bill is in line behind several other measures scheduled for consideration on the Senate floor, it is uncertain when it will come up for a vote by the full body.

Even if it passes the full Senate quickly, however, passage of a new law by the full Congress is not even on the distant horizon. That is because there is no companion bill moving through the House. To become law, separate bills must pass both houses and be combined by a joint committee for presentation to the President for final approval.

Lotteries, Horses Only

The Senate bill would amend the federal criminal code to make it illegal for any person in the gambling business to use the Internet or any other interactive computer service to place, receive or otherwise make a bet or wager. It would also be illegal to send, receive or invite information over the Internet to assist in the placing of a bet or wager.

The exceptions to those rules are state and multi-state lotteries, which have been posting lottery results and upcoming jackpots on the Internet to increase participation, and certain authorized horse racing operations.

The bill would also exempt Internet service providers from liability for the actions of illegal online gamblers if the ISPs remove the gambling-related Web site from their servers after being notified by federal agencies that the Web site violates the law.

Finally, the bill would also direct the U.S. Attorney General to submit to Congress a report on the problems associated with enforcing the new law, recommendations on how to use the Department of Justice’s resources for enforcement and an estimate of how much money is currently being spent on Internet gambling.

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