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Banks Oppose Tough Online Gambling Restrictions

In the latest attempt to crack down on online gambling Senator Jon Kyl (Republican, Arizona) has put forward a bill – the Internet Prohibition and Enforcement Act. This bill requires that all banks monitor the transactions between their customers and online gambling establishments.

Several years ago most major banks voluntarily began blocking credit card payments to online gambling outfits when regulators put forward this proposal. Part of the bill put forward will formalize this block on credit cards, and this is not something that the banks oppose anyway.

There is currently a group of approximately 5,000 small U.S. banks who are opposing the intricacies of the new bill put forward. These smaller establishments fear that performing these blocks would be burdensome and at worst, virtually impossible to their already overloaded systems.

Because of the credit card transaction ban, online gambling members choose to send their money through a middle man – an electronic transfer service – this enables them to gambler free from any restrictions. Money is transferred from the gamer's bank account or credit card, to the transfer service, which is not necessarily for the purposes of online gambling, it could be used to make purchases in any number of online services.

These transfer services are the life blood of online gambling establishments and this is what the bill intends to crack down on.

Lobbyists for the banking industry say that it is easy to tell banks to begin by blocking all payments to online gambling businesses but the system is not designed to cope with this proposal. Unlike credit card transactions, these electronic transfers are not coded and therefore the bank has no idea of the type of business on the receiving end – it could be an online gambling business or it could be an internet bookstore.

To ask the banks to begin monitoring these online gambling payments would require an overhaul of colossal proportions and it would be extremely costly to the taxpayer. Another section of the bill requires that personal checks written by gamers to their online gambling account should also be blocked and at present there is no system in place to perform this arduous procedure.

The American Bankers Association which is the representative body for the major U.S. banks have not let their concerns be known to the same degree although spokeswoman Laura Fisher agrees that any proposal to block payments to online gambling businesses would be very difficult or impossible. It would mean checking around 40 billion checks per year and then having to try and guess whether it was made out to an online gambling site or a restaurant.

Many people are arguing that this huge burden to crack down on online gambling would divert attention from more important issues such as tracing terrorist group financing. Because this procedure is virtually impossible, looking for an online gambling company in all the records where names of companies are constantly changing is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

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