A bill to ban cybercasinos to curb the proliferation ofInternet sites offering casino games and sports betting to everyonewith a credit card and a computer failed in a vote by the House late today.
Representatives voted 245-159 against the ban which would have curbed such practices regardless of where a person lived.
A total of about 270 votes was needed for passage of the bill.
One way to promote the Internet is to make sure that the seamyside of life is dealt with on the Internet, said the billssponsor, Rep. Just like child pornographyhas to be dealt with on the Internet, so does unregulated,out-of-control, illegal gambling.
Critics, including the Justice Department, said the bill would haveactually helped the pari-mutuel industry reach bettors who could nototherwise wager. Internet service providers areexempt from criminal penalties, provided they obey law enforcementdirectives to cut off customer access to gambling sites.
The Associated Press and ABCNews’ Dean Norland contributed to this story.
. Bobby Scott, D-Va.,who opposed the bill as ineffective.
Federal prosecutors already have prosecuted some Internetgambling operations using the 1961 Wire Communications Act, whichwas written to cover sports betting via telephone.
The bill originally contained penalties for individual bettorsas well, but they were removed. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va. Businesses that offer onlinegambling could be fined at least $20,000 and their principals sentto jail for up to four years.
Goodlatte attempted to address critics concerns last week byadding language specifying that the bill is not intended to permitactivities that now are illegal.
Other critics said the bill would infringe on states rights byprohibiting state lotteries from offering at-home sales of ticketsover the Internet.
The commercial casino industry and major sports leaguessupported the bill, as did the National Association of AttorneysGeneral and some conservative social groups including the ChristianCoalition.
Tom Grey, executive director of the National Coalition AgainstLegalized Gambling, said his group decided the benefit of crackingdown on virtual casinos outweighed the risk of boosting the racingindustry.
Wasnt a Royal Flush for Us
To use the parlance, this wasnt a royal flush for us, but itwas a winning hand, Grey said.
Opponents include the conservative Traditional Values Coalitionas well as computer industry groups that do not want to seeInternet regulation.
The Interactive Gaming Council, which represents Internetbetting sites, advocated legalizing and taxing Internet gamblingrather than prohibiting it.
The choice to Congress is simple: They can start down the roadof Internet regulation, picking winners and losers in markets andtrampling on individual freedoms, or they can leave the Internet asa haven for individual freedom, the groups chairman, SueSchneider, said in a statement earlier today.
The Senate approved similar legislation sponsored by Sen. before the vote. Lobbyists for horse racing, dog racing and jaialai got exemptions inserted in the bill.
House leaders brought the bill to the floor under rulesprohibiting amendments, limiting debate to 40 minutes and requiringa two-thirds majority for passage.
Casinos, Sports Leagues Favor Bill
Nearly 700 Internet sites offer online gambling, a businessexpected to grow from $1.1 billion in 1999 to $3 billion in 2002,according to a recent report for the online gambling industry.
The bill would prohibit anyone who runs a gambling business toplace or receive an online wager. JonKyl, R-Ariz., in November.
Enforcement of the Internet gambling ban would be challenging,because most of the outlets are based outside the United States.
If you go offshore, the federal government has no authority toclose those particular Web sites, said Rep