An attempt to sneak a US bill banning online gambling into law has run into trouble. Supporters of the bill had attempted to attach the bill to a defence bill being passed this week, but the move has been blocked by the Armed Services Committee.
The Bush administration and the Department of Justice are keen to pass a new law making internet gambling illegal to clear up uncertainty surrounding the 1961 Wire Act currently used in prosecutions. The bill has passed through the House of Representatives but has not yet passed the Senate. Other attempts in recent years to pass an anti-online gambling act have fallen at the Senate.
The leader of the Republican Senate majority, Bill Frist, wants the bill to be passed this week because the Senate will enter recess to campaign for elections this week and observers say that the bill must be passed before recess if it is to have a chance of success.
A defence bill which awaits consideration and is almost certain to become law had found itself the subject of attempts to attach other legislation to it. John Warner, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote to Frist raising "a strong objection" to the attaching of unrelated legislation to that bill.
"I have firmly opposed putting any bills in the conference report," he wrote. He said that attempts had been made to attach nine extra bills to the defence legislation.
Both the DoJ and the State of Louisiana have recently arrested UK citizens in the US who worked for online gambling companies.
David Carruthers, ex-chief executive of Betonsports and Peter Dicks, ex-chairman of Sportingbet, were both held, though Dicks was allowed to return to the UK. He is expected to face a hearing in New York today on attempts by Louisiana to hear his case in that state.
The US Department of Justice recently admitted to OUT-LAW that the 1961 Wire Act is 'dated'. DoJ spokeswoman Jacqueline Lesch said: "They include language about a wire communication facility which we believe includes the internet. They are dated but they cover online gambling."
"We don't think it is confusing," said Lesch. "We think it contravenes three statutes, the Wire Act, the Travel Act and the Illegal Gambling Businesses Act. This has long been a concern of the DoJ."