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Online wagers uncertain

CARSON CITY — The future of Internet gambling, which the Bush administration sought to bar in a rule issued in November, remains “very much up in the air,” a Nevada regulator told lawmakers Tuesday.

Dennis Neilander, chairman of the state Gaming Control Board, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that without clarification from the courts or Congress, he believes Nevada is precluded from adding Internet gambling to the many games it regulates.

The Bush administration’s rule, from the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve, requires financial companies to establish procedures by Dec. 1 to prevent payments stemming from Internet gambling activity.

Neilander noted that the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who opposed the regulation, also has a pending measure to scrap a 2006 law change that served as the basis for the November ruling.

The rule does not define “unlawful Internet gambling.” That has been an issue since Republicans pushed through the 2006 law by attaching it to a port security bill in 2006.

Banks and other financial institutions have complained they were being forced into a law enforcement role when Congress couldn’t define what it was trying to prevent.

The 2006 law sought to curb online gambling by prohibiting financial institutions from accepting payments from credit cards, checks or electronic fund transfers to settle online wagers.

Neilander also said that Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., has proposed a thorough study of the issue. Berkley has said the Bush administration embarked on a “prohibitionist crusade against Internet gaming” that led to the flawed rules being issued “at the very last minute.”

U.S. bettors have been estimated to supply at least half the revenue of the estimated $16 billion yearly Internet gambling industry, which is largely hosted on overseas sites.

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