U.S. House committee clears "prohibition bill"

The U.S. House Financial Services Committee today approved a bill which aims to prohibit Americans from playing and wagering at offshore Internet gambling Web sites. The bill will now advance to the House of Representatives for deliberation.

Under the new legislation, American monetary institutions are prohibited from processing gambling transactions to online poker rooms and casinos or sports betting Web sites when payments are made by credit card, wire transfer and electronic funds transfers. By labelling these methods of payment as "illegal gambling transactions," the government would effectively block the ability of a player to transfer money to an account at select gambling Web sites.

Not all U.S. House Financial Services Committee members were in favor of the bill, however. Representative Barney Frank (D - Mass.), the leading Democrat on the House committee, spoke out in opposition of the bill, opining that adults are entitled to spend their money in any way they wish, regardless of the moral opposition some lawmakers harbour towards gambling.

Other advocates of Internet gambling decry the selective nature of the bill, which permits Americans to continue wagering on horse races and fantasy sports online, and to participate in state-run lotteries.

"It is disingenuous to oppose Internet gambling," said Michael Bolcerek, president of the Poker Players Alliance, "and then write a bill that makes select forms of online gambling legal." The PPA is a Las Vegas-based nonprofit organization created to represent the rights of poker players in the United States. It boasts a membership of nearly 50,000 poker players.

Groups who voiced support for the legislation include the National Football League and Major League Baseball. The two organizations issued a joint statement stating the "integrity" of both football and baseball are threatened by the continued practice of sports betting.

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