The Senate voted 90-10 Thursday to ban gambling on the Internet.
The amendment by Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., would extend the current federal ban on interstate gambling on sports by telephone or wire to most other forms of gambling, including "virtual casinos" that allow interactive betting.On an 82-18 vote, senators rejected an amendment by Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, that would have excepted from the ban Indian tribes, which now are permitted to run Internet gambling sites.
Kyl objected to the exception, saying an American Indian-run site could be used by anyone with Internet access, creating a mammoth loophole.
"It goes to any state and into any home and to any child," said Kyl.
A similar bill outlawing Internet gambling is awaiting House action.
Under Kyl's proposal, states could still use the Internet for lotteries and for off-track betting on horse or dog races if they conduct business on "closed-loop, subscriber-based" computer systems inaccessible to the general public. Internet gamblers could face fines, while those running gaming sites on the World Wide Web could face fines or imprisonment.
Sites for popular sports "rotisserie" leagues, in which people choose rosters of professional athletes and bet on their statistics, would be allowed as long as fees are not used to pay off bets, under an amendment by Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., that was accepted unanimously.
Kyl would also extend the current telephone and wire gambling prohibition to cover new technologies including microwave transmission and fiberactive cable.
The Justice Department has estimated that $600 million was wagered illegally over the Internet last year, a tenfold increase over the previous year, said a Kyl aide.
Last month, the Justice Department expressed concern about Kyl's bill.
Deputy Assistant Attorney General Kevin V. DiGregory said the 1961 Wire Communications Act needs to be updated to apply not just to sports betting but to interactive casino betting as well. But he said his agency opposes prosecuting bettors, and he questioned the practicality of having prosecutors indict operators of virtual casinos, most of whom are based legally in other countries.