Treasury Department Finalizes Online Gambling Regulations

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Online Gambling Regulations

The Treasury Department has finalized regulations that would effectively ban online gambling in the U.S. and is trying to have them implemented in the waning days of the Bush administration.

The controversial rules would make it illegal for banks to process credit card transactions from most Internet gambling sites.

Their implementation has been opposed by groups advocating individuals' right to gamble, the banking industry, Democratic lawmakers in Congress and even officials at the Federal Reserve.

The rules stem from a last-minute addition to a law passed in the final hours of the Republican controlled Congress in 2006. The provisions related to online gambling were included in an unrelated port security bill.

The Treasury Department forwarded the final regulations to the Office of Management and Budget on Oct. 21, a necessary step towards their implementation.

It's standard practice for outgoing administrations to finalize controversial regulations before leaving office, a practice known as a midnight drop.

The law as drafted by Congress includes some exemptions for horse race betting, interstate online lotteries and betting on fantasy sports.

But draft rules published by the Treasury in October 2007 don't define what would be considered an illegal transaction, and there has been much confusion as to what types of online gambling would be rendered illegal.

Banks have warned they may block all online gambling transactions rather than try to determine which ones are illegal. An official from the Federal Reserve testified before Congress in April that the draft regulations created considerable uncertainty.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, attempted to drum up support from fellow lawmakers for legislation that would amend the law to allow online gambling transactions to continue.

He was unsuccessful but pledged to return to the issue next year.

The Poker Players Alliance, a group formed to combat the law, has fought against its implementation. It argues that Internet poker should be exempted from the law.

"It's really remarkable that this administration would try to push this out given the burden it would place on financial institutions at this time of financial crisis," said John Pappas, the executive director of the group.

Pappas is meeting Friday with officials from the OMB, whose job it is to formally implement the regulations, in a last ditch effort to prevent them from being put on the books.

He wants officials to wait until President-elect Barack Obama's administration takes office in January to allow for a thorough review of the potential impact of the rules.

A Treasury spokeswoman did not return phone calls seeking comment for this report.

Source: Dow Jones News

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