“The ease of Internet gambling poses a very serious threat to our families and our society,” Rep. Tom Osborne, R-Neb., said in support of the bill.
The legislation would clarify existing law by declaring Internet gambling illegal. It would cut off payments to betting Web sites and would allow authorities to work with Internet providers to block access to gambling Web sites.
Osborne and other bill supporters contend that it’s too easy for online betters to lose money and to become addicted. Critics say policing the Internet is impossible and that it would be better to regulate the $12 billion industry and collect taxes on it.
The American Gaming Association, the industry’s largest lobby, has opposed online gambling in the past but recently backed a study of the feasibility of regulating it.
The Internet gambling industry is headquartered almost entirely outside the United States, though about half its customers live in the U.S.
The House is scheduled to vote later in the day on the bill, sponsored by Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Jim Leach, R-Iowa. Some of the debate focused on whether the bill would truly amount to a ban.
Critics point to exemptions that they say would allow online lotteries and Internet betting on horse racing to flourish while cracking down on other kinds of sports betting, casino games and card games like poker.
“Hypocrisy is certainly rampant here in the house today,” Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said.