Fresh US blitz on online gambling

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A prohibition bill was introduced to Congress yesterday, and its proponents are confident a new political climate after a lobbying scandal would ensure it makes more progress than previous proposals.

The online gaming industry moved immediately to dismiss the threat from the bill, which was proposed by the Virginia congressmen Bob Goodlatte and Rick Boucher. They say similar legislation they had introduced in previous years was derailed because of a "campaign of misinformation" by the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who once worked for the technology firm eLottery.

The proposed law would crack down on illegal gambling by updating existing laws to explicitly outlaw bets taken over the internet. It also would put an onus on credit card and so-called "e-wallet" companies to disallow money transfers going to offshore gambling sites.

London-listed shares in some of the world's biggest online gambling businesses, including PartyGaming and Sportingbet, plunged this week when Mr Goodlatte indicated he would relaunch his bill. Andrew McIvor, Sportingbet's finance director, said yesterday: "It's been tried so many times, but it can't get the support. I believe the risk of it succeeding goes down each year."