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11/13/2008
06:39 PM
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Online Gambling Ban Approved

The law, scheduled to take effect in December 2009, prohibits payments made through credit cards, electronic funds transfers, and checks related to online wagers.

The Bush administration on Wednesday approved a 2006 law that outlaws many forms of online gambling, leaving banks and financial institutions scrambling to clamp down on bet transactions.

The 120-page Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 prohibits payments made through credit cards, electronic funds transfers, and checks related to online wagers. The financial institutions, however, have until Dec. 1, 2009, to comply with the law.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., has said he will seek to overturn the law, pointing out that even the most ardent fans of the regulations have said they will be difficult to interpret and enforce.

Part of the problem is to define "unlawful Internet gambling." For instance, the National Football League's "Fantasy Football" is exempted from the legislation, because the NFL claims the game is skill-based and not a game of chance and, thus, not gambling.

Opponents of the legislation complained earlier this week before the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Bank issued new regulations describing the legislation. The opponents argued that a former NFL lobbyist was working in the White House and represented a conflict of interest. A White House spokesperson said the lobbyist, William Wichterman, was in compliance with ethics rules.

The legislation, HR 4411, was originally sponsored by Republican Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, and it had the strong and influential backing of then-Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn. After 30 years in the House, Leach was narrowly defeated in the 2006 election. This summer Leach threw his support to Barack Obama to the consternation of many Republicans, and this week Obama named Leach and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as his representatives to an international economic summit in Washington.

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