The House voted 317-93 Tuesday for legislation that would prohibit credit cards and other payment forms from being used to settle Internet wagers. It would clarify and update current law to spell out that most gambling is illegal online.
It also would allow law enforcement officials to work with Internet providers to block access to gambling Web sites. The bill would exempt state-run lotteries and horse racing.
The fight now moves to the Senate. Leaders in that chamber have not identified Internet gambling as a priority, and the bill's supporters say the House vote gives them momentum to push the Senate to act. The bill's main champion in that chamber, Republican Sen. Jon Kyl said Tuesday he would pursue it aggressively.
Supporters of a ban say the Internet's widespread availability makes it too easy to gamble, something that can create betting addictions and financial problems.
Critics argue that the legislation favors some gambling industries over others and that regulating the US$12 billion industry and collecting taxes on it would be more effective than a ban.
The American Gaming Association, 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 its customers live in the U.S.
The bill's sponsors successfully beat back an amendment to strip out exemptions in the bill for the horse racing industry and state lotteries.
Democrat Rep. Shelley Berkley 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, according to the AP.