October 03, 2006
Sleep Soundly Tonight -- Online Gambling through a U.S. Financial Institution is Illegal
Posted by Christine Hurt

This summer I was watching H.R. 4411, a bill passed by the House that prohibited U.S. financial institutions from aiding and abetting online gambling.  When asked if the Senate would pass the bill, I usually said that I was prepared to be surprised.  Although these types of anti-gambling bills had not been passed in the last four Congresses, I was prepared to be surprised.  Well, I'm surprised.

Last week, H.R. 4954 was passed by both the House and the Senate.  The title of the bill is the SAFE Ports Act, and it contains detailed provisions on increasing the security of the nation's ports.  Who would be against safe ports?  However, last week, provisions of H.R. 4411 were tacked on to the end (Sections 801 et seq.) and also passed by both houses, almost unanimously.  The text of these new sections is not included in the text of the bill on Thomas (just the subheadings), so I'm not sure if H.R. 4411 was incorporated full-text.  News accounts like this one in the WSJ seem to assume that the basic thrust of 4411 is intact -- U.S. financial institutions may not accept transactions that facilitate online gambling.

Of course, gamblers can wager through offshore financial institutions like Neteller, etc.  Where there is a will, there's a way.  But our state lotteries and tribal casinos (which were excepted in the conference report) can sleep tight knowing that their family friendly gaming operations will not be cannibalized by evil offshore gambling.

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