Decision on US Online Gaming is Near
By staff
On the calendar this year are several key e-commerce and Internet measures that previously floundered. Several lawmakers have pledged to reintroduce measures that would regulate junk e-mail, reform class-action litigation and ban Internet gambling.

For example, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., plans to reintroduce legislation designed to stop the growth of some online wagers by amending federal gambling rules.

A recent decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in an online gambling case likely will force Congress to examine the definition of online gambling.

The Wire Act currently bans interstate sports betting via telephone wires. The court ruled last month that MasterCard was not liable for debts incurred by individuals who placed bets over casino Web sites. The three-judge panel said language in current law does not apply to 'non-sports Internet gambling.'

Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, this week reintroduced a version of his gambling-related bill, which the House overwhelmingly passed in October. It would have prohibited the use of financial instruments to execute Internet gambling transactions.

House Financial Services Chairman Oxley strongly supported the bill, but the 107th Congress ended before the Senate could address it.

A Financial Services Committee spokesman said the issue will be a top priority in 2003, adding, 'It's very clear that the law is muddled on the issue.'

A majority of lawmakers see a need to update the Wire Act to ensure that its language applies to online casinos, Goodlatte said.

With many of the conflicts over gambling legislation resolved in 2002, he said, 'I would hope that we would get started doing the legislation soon.'

Goodlatte noted that Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., the lead sponsor of e-gambling legislation in the Senate, will assume a leadership role in January, helping prospects for the issue in 2003.

By: J. Daniel Walsh

Vice President

Williams Mullen Strategies

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