|Posted: July 26, 2006, 6:16 pm - IP Logged|
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Prospects have dimmed for swift U.S. Senate passage of a bill to outlaw most forms of Internet gambling as industry trade groups and lawmakers raise objections, congressional sources said on Wednesday.
Efforts to move a House-passed measure through the Senate have run into opposition from lobbyists representing casino owners and horse- and dog-racing interests in recent days. Some Republican senators have broken ranks and placed "holds" on it, the sources said
The House-passed bill is not going to pass the Senate," said one source who is knowledgeable about the legislation, adding that changes must be made to win sufficient support.
The industry is a major contributor to some congressional campaigns and sources said opposition could stir up new trouble among senators such as Republicans Jim Bunning and Mitch McConell of Kentucky or Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada.
The bill would prohibit most forms of Internet gambling and make it illegal for banks and credit card companies to make payments to online gambling sites.
The Republican-backed measure has been criticized by some as an election-year appeal to the party's conservative base.
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.
Backers of the legislation, led by Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, have been trying to build support and resolve differences as the Senate focuses on other legislative matters and gets ready for a month-long break.
However, congressional aides said some Republican senators have placed holds on the bill, and that Democratic senators may eventually do so as well depending on how talks proceed.
The bill was not among the priorities outlined by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, during a session with reporters on Tuesday in which he laid out measures he hopes to wrap up before the August vacation.
Any member of the Senate may place a secret "hold" on legislation, which prevents it from being brought up for a vote until concerns about the measure are resolved.
One aide said concerns had been voiced by representatives of casinos as well as horse-racing tracks, dog tracks and lotteries about limited exemptions in the bill.
So far in 2006, the casino and gambling industry has given more than $6.4 million to federal candidates, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics. That amount places it 30th among the more than 80 industries tracked by the organization.
"There is always a chance that differences can be resolved and the Senate could vote before the August recess, but not a very good one at this point," one aide said.
In order to win support, Kyl may have to amend the Senate bill and ask House lawmakers to revisit a similar amended version, other sources said.
Supporters could take up the bill when the Senate reconvenes in September. But it would be difficult to work out changes in time for members of Congress to return to their districts to campaign before the November elections.