Washington The House voted Tuesday to forbid the use of credit cards to settle online bets, an effort to halt mushrooming interest in Internet gambling.
Opponents said it wouldn't work and decried exceptions for state-run lotteries and a horse racing industry that has powerful patrons in Congress
The vote was 317-93.
"The House has acted very strongly on this measure," said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., one of the bill's lead sponsors. "I think that should send a strong signal that we need for the Senate to act."
Senate leaders have not identified the bill as a top priority, but the bill's main champion in that chamber, Arizona Republican Jon Kyl, said Tuesday he would pursue it aggressively.
The legislation would clarify and update current law to spell out that most gambling is illegal online and would prohibit most payment forms from being used to settle online wagers.
The measure also would empower law enforcement authorities to work with Internet providers to block access to gambling Web sites.
Supporters say Internet betting can create problem gamblers.
"The Internet is addictive for many people anyway, and online gambling can be doubly addictive," said Rep. John Duncan Jr., R-Tenn.
Critics argued that regulating the $12 billion industry and collecting taxes on it would be more effective than outlawing it. They say policing the Internet is impossible.
"Prohibition as a general principle is a bad principle, because it doesn't work," said Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.
The American Gaming Assn., the industry's largest lobby, opposed online gambling in the past but recently softened its stance and backed a study of the feasibility of regulating it.
The Internet gambling industry is headquartered almost entirely outside the United States, although about half of its customers live in the U.S.
The bill's sponsors successfully beat back an amendment to strip the exemptions for the horse racing industry and state lotteries.
Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., sponsored the failed amendment. She said it was unfair to allow online lotteries and Internet betting on horse racing to flourish while cracking down on other kinds of sports betting, casino games and card games like poker.
Goodlatte called that "a poison pill" aimed at defeating the overall legislation.