Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist targeted a ban on Internet gambling as a
top priority for the U.S. Senate in the waning days of the 109th Congress.
With little more than 20 working days left before the November mid-term
elections, the Senate faces a crowded agenda including 13 different funding
bills to keep the government functioning when its new fiscal year begins on
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have a tentative Oct. 9
In its first session Tuesday since the August recess, Frist prioritized the
appropriation bills, judicial nominee confirmations and halting Internet
gambling as his top issues.
“Internet gambling threatens our families by bringing addictive behavior
right into our living rooms,” Frist said in floor remarks.
The House of Representatives approved
legislation in July updating the 1961 Wire Act that bans sports wagering
over the telephone to include all forms of online gambling.
The bill would also force banks and credit card companies to refuse payments
to the estimated 2,300 offshore gambling sites located outside of U.S.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (H.R.
4411) specifically exempts online horse racing and state lotteries from
“We tried to get it done [Senate passage of the bill] before the recess but
were unable to get unanimous consent to bring the bill up,” Karen Weyforth,
a spokesperson for Frist’s office, told internetnews.com.
To make room on the jammed Senate calendar, Weyforth said Frist hopes to
bring up the bill for a vote “with very little debate” by limiting the time
available for floor discussion of the legislation.
Throughout both the Clinton and Bush administrations, the Department of
Justice (DoJ) has contended the Wire Act already covers Internet gambling.
Previous congressional efforts to clarify the law have failed.
Momentum for a new Internet gambling ban gained traction in January when
former lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud, tax
evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials.
Proponents of the ban contend Abramoff used his influence to kill previous
anti-gambling bills, pointing to allegations in court documents that he made
payments of $50,000 to the wife of a unnamed Capitol Hill staffer for help
in stopping at least one Internet gambling bill.
Internet gambling maintained a high profile this summer as the Department of
Justice (DoJ) moved aggressively against London-based BetonSports, which
maintains operations in Costa Rica and Antigua aimed at U.S. gamblers.
In July, a St. Louis grand jury issued a 22-count indictment
against the gambling firm and its top officers, charging them with
racketeering, conspiracy and fraud, including failing to pay federal
wagering excise taxes on more than $3.3 billion in wagers taken from U.S.
Former BetonSports CEO David Carruthers remains under house arrest in St.
Louis while company founder Gary Kaplan remains a fugitive at large.
The London Stock Exchange suspended trading in the company’s shares on July
17 and by August, the company cut off access to its
sites for U.S. bettors.