U.S.-facing Internet gambling groups listed on the London Stock Exchange saw their shares plummet yesterday as word leaked that American legislators are preparing to introduce a "prohibition bill" aimed at crippling the online gambling industry.
According to reports, Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R - Vir.) will reintroduce a bill this week that amends existing legislation to explicitly prohibit the online gambling industry from operating in the United States. Currently, Internet gambling firms are forbidden from operating in the United States, and base their operations in offshore locales in order to bypass laws and access American gamers.
U.S. authorities have thus far failed to stop an estimated 8 million American gamblers from wagering and playing on the Web sites. However, the rumored legislation could empower law enforcement officials to stop payments made by Americans to the offshore firms when credit cards, wire services, and other banking methods are used.
Previous efforts by Goodlatte to pass legislation banning online gambling have stopped short of gaining the necessary support in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, largely due to the efforts of Jack Abramoff, a former Republican lobbyist who worked as an advisor to technology firm eLottery. However, a recent bribery scandal involving Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to fraud, has reignited support in favor of prohibiting Internet gambling in the country, and has sparked fears among Internet gambling firms that new initiatives could gain widespread support.
The industry is hoping U.S. casino groups come out in favor of online gambling in the hopes of launching their own Internet ventures in the future, although there is no indication the Vegas-based casino giants have any interest in supporting the legalization of Internet gambling or of becoming involved in the multi-billion dollar industry behind it.