Efforts to win congressional passage of a bill to ban most forms of Internet gambling by tacking it onto a must-pass bill hit a roadblock Tuesday, but aides said Republican backers are exploring other ways to make it law.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, a Virginia Republican, raised a "strong objection" to attaching any unrelated legislation to a pending defense bill, which has been viewed by supporters of the gambling bill as a prime vehicle for it.
"I have firmly opposed putting any (unrelated) bills in the conference report," Warner wrote in a letter dated Monday to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican.
Warner did not cite the Internet gambling bill specifically, but he said other senators have sought to tack at least nine unrelated items to the defense bill.
A Republican aide said that Frist has not given up on passing the Internet gambling bill before lawmakers recess at the end of this week to campaign for the Nov. 7 elections. Frist and other proponents are looking at other possible vehicles, such as a pending measure to bolster port security against potential terrorist attacks, aides said.
"He wants to get it done," one aide said. "We are still working things out. Everyone is still talking."
A senior Democratic aide said, "I wouldn't pronounce it dead yet."
Efforts to win support for a Internet version of the House bill in the Senate have been opposed by lobbyists representing casino owners and horse- and dog-racing interests.
The bill would prohibit most forms of Internet gambling and make it illegal for banks and credit card companies to make payments to gambling sites.
Investors in British-based gaming companies such as BetOnSports, Partygaming and 888 Holdings are closely watching the U.S. legislation.
Democrats have criticized the Republican-backed measure as an election-year appeal to the party's conservative base, particularly the religious right.
Frist is a potential 2008 presidential candidate. He recently appeared at a congressional field hearing in Iowa — the state that holds the first presidential nominating contest in 2008 — to hear concerns about Internet gambling.
Supporters of a crackdown on Internet gambling say legislation is needed to clarify that a 1961 federal law banning interstate telephone betting also covers an array of online gambling.