US Online Gambling Ban...take 10...
He's at it again. Despite numerous unsuccessful previous attempts to push anti-online gambling legislation over the line in both the US's house of Representatives and Senate, Virginia congressman Bob Goodlatte has stepped up yet again. On the 15th of February Congressman Goodlatte reintroduced HR 4777, the "Internet Gambling Prohibition Act", which amends Title 18 of the United States Code containing the Federal Wire Act passed in 1961 with the effect of unambiguously making the placing a bet over the internet illegal.
The rapid growth of Internet casinos, poker rooms and sports books over the last decade was possible only as a result of the ambiguity surrounding the definition of "wire". While opponents of Internet gambling insisted that the definition could include cable, satellite, and cellular technology, no court would uphold a conviction based on the wording of the current law.
Past attempts by Goodlatte, and Senator Jon Kyle to outlaw online gambling have made it through the house of Reps, but have always failed to win the required two thirds majority Senate vote. This latest attempt is said to have been inspired by both the demise of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who it is claimed by Goodlatte was largely responsibly for the failure of previous bills, as well as the Italian governments recent success in effectively enforcing a ban on online gambling via obligations imposed on local ISP's to block residents access to offshore betting sites.
Goodlatte and his supporters claim that the online gambling is not only harmful to US residents who play online, but also offers a vehicle for criminals to launder money. A third, and perhaps most compelling reason from the government's perspective, is that at present revenues generates by offshore gambling sites cannot be taxed and so Uncle Sam misses out completely on his share of the online gambling pie (Goodlatte is not so perturbed about the harmful effects of US terrestrial gambling on US gamblers, or the fact that this also presents a money laundering opportunity!)
While estimates as to current online player numbers vary considerably, according to Forrester polls as at July 2005, there were over 300,000 gambling websites entertaining over 7,000,000 online gamblers. While the bulk of traffic to these websites initially came from the United States, that number is now around 40% as players are attracted from all over the world.
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