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Effort to Ban 'Virtual Casinos' Gains Support
By Laurence Arnold  Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Supporters of the three-year effort to ban "virtual casinos" on the Internet contended Tuesday that online gambling, if left unchecked, is headed for explosive growth.

Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, sponsor of a ban that passed the Senate but not the House last year, is proposing a modified version that would eliminate one of the more controversial provisions of last year's bill — criminal penalties for individuals who place bets via computer.

The revised bill would also clarify that federal law will not criminalize sports "fantasy" leagues that are already legal in states and would address concerns of Internet providers, who may be called upon to block access to gambling sites.

At a hearing Tuesday convened by Kyl, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on technology, the revised bill was endorsed by attorneys general from Ohio and Wisconsin, a casino regulator from New Jersey and representatives of sports organizations.

"Internet gambling is still in its infancy," said Bill Saum, director of agent and gambling activities for the National Collegiate Athletic Association. "As the number of online sports betting sites continues to grow abroad, it is essential that the United States send a clear message that ... it will be a violation of federal law to accept bets over the Internet."

Representatives of Internet casinos criticized Kyl for not inviting any witnesses who oppose the bill. Sue Schneider, chairman of the Interactive Gaming Council, called the hearing a "sham." Her group wants to see Internet gambling regulated rather than outlawed.

Kyl said the witness list was limited because of time constraints.

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