Under the provisions of a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday night, U.S. Internet service providers could be required to block access to or pull advertising from offshore Web gambling sites. In either case, a federal or state court order would be required and ISPs would be under no legal obligation to police their networks for gambling advertisements.
H.R. 556, the Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, primarily aims to prohibit Americans from gambling at the estimated 1,500 offshore Internet sites that are beyond the jurisdiction of the U.S. It prohibits U.S.-based banks, credit card companies and other Internet payment systems from making payments to the sites. Most major credit card companies already refuse to make payments to offshore Web casinos.
While the legislation represents a significant victory for the anti-gambling forces in Washington, passage by the Senate is unlikely according to sources contacted by internetnews.com.
“You have to remember this is the silly season,” a Senate staff member, who asked not to be identified, said. “There’s just a couple of weeks left before we break for the elections and this (the anti-gambling bill) will never come up in the Senate this year. All sorts of things get passed on a House voice vote just before elections so members can go home and say, ‘Look what I got passed!'”
If the bill fails to gain Senate passage before the end of the year, the legislation would die and have to be re-introduced in the House.
ISPs have been closely watching the legislation for their possible liability in running ads from offshore casinos, and Dave McClure, president and chief executive officer of the United States Internet Industry Association (USIIA) said if the bill eventually became law, which he doubted, ISPs would likely comply.
“We looked at the bill and saw nothing threatening,” McClure said. “We saw no constitutional violations and ISPs have a long-term history of cooperating with law enforcement officials. Clearly, ISPs would participate.”
According to investment firm Bear, Stearns and Co., offshore gambling sites are expected to generate more than $4 billion in revenue next year. It is estimated that more than 60 percent of that revenue comes from Americans.