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Tony Batt

Congress Unlikely to Act on Internet Gambling

27 October 2004

WASHINGTON -- When Congress returns for a lame-duck session after the election, an eight-year quest to restrict or ban Internet gambling is likely to remain unfulfilled.

In 1996, when lawmakers first sought to control Internet gambling, 30 Web sites received bets totaling $30 million.

This year, more than 1,800 Web sites are projected to accept about $7 billion in wagers, according to

By 2010, the Internet gambling market is expected to grow to $18.4 billion.

After the election, lawmakers are expected to focus on approving a budget for next year and steer clear of controversial legislation such as Internet gambling restrictions.

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., has been spearheading efforts to crack down on Internet gambling since 1996 and may try again next year.

"I wouldn't bet the mortgage that (Internet gambling restrictions) will pass this year, but his interest in this issue will not go away," Kyl spokesman Scot Montrey said.

The last congressional action on Internet gambling occurred more than a year ago when the Senate Banking Committee voted 19-0 on July 31, 2003, to approve restrictions Kyl proposed.

Congress appeared to have plenty of time to get a bill curtailing Internet gambling to President Bush's desk.

The House voted 319-104 on June 10, 2003, to outlaw the use of credit cards, checks and other bank instruments to pay for Internet bets.

The original version of Kyl's legislation was similar to the House bill. But the Senate Banking Committee added a provision to prevent states from authorizing online wagers within their borders. That immediately drew the opposition of the American Gaming Association, which complained the Kyl bill would favor Indian gaming and the pari-mutuel industry over mainstream casinos.

"The absence of consensus with respect to what is legal and what is carved out is going to continue to create problems," said Dan Walsh, a lobbyist for the Interactive Gaming Council, which represents online wagering companies.

So Congress is unlikely to ever approve restrictions or a ban on Internet gambling, Walsh said.

What's likelier, he said, is that Congress may pass legislation to regulate Internet gambling.

That was what Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., proposed March 12, 2003, when he introduced a bill to create a federal commission to study the licensing and regulation of companies taking bets online.

But Conyers' bill attracted only three co-sponsors, including Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and would have to be re-introduced in the new Congress next year to stay alive.

Joseph Kelly, a business law professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, agreed with Walsh that Conyers' proposal has a better chance.

Kelly noted that Britain is on the verge of regulating online wagering.

"It's going to be very difficult to argue that Internet gambling can't be regulated successfully if the British can do it," Kelly said.

Congress Unlikely to Act on Internet Gambling is republished from