Washington (Reuters) – Most forms of Internet gambling would be banned under a bill that received final U.S. congressional approval early Saturday.
The House of Representatives and Senate approved the measure and sent it to President George W. Bush to sign into law.
The bill, a compromise between earlier versions passed by the two chambers, would make it illegal for banks and credit card companies to make payments to online gambling sites.
Democrats had accused Republicans of pushing the bill to placate its conservative base, particularly the religious right, before the November 7 congressional elections.
„It’s been over 10 years in the making. The enforcement provisions provided by this bill will go a long way to stop these illegal online operations,“ said Sen. Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican and a chief sponsor of the measure.
Negotiators from the Republican-led House and Senate reached a deal on the legislation Friday and attached it to unrelated legislation to bolster port security, which the Congress approved.
The final bill dropped earlier provisions opposed by some gaming interests that would have clarified that a 1961 federal law banning interstate telephone betting also covers an array of online gambling.
Investors in British-based gaming companies such as BETonSPORTS Plc, Partygaming Plc and 888 Holdings Plc have tracked the legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican and potential 2008 presidential candidate, recently appeared at a hearing in Iowa — the state that holds the first presidential nominating contest for the 2008 election — to listen to concerns about Internet gambling.