Breaking the Virtual Casino

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No more bets, please. The Senate tackled the seedy underworld of online gambling Thursday by voting to outlaw the virtual casino. The law, last updated in 1961, only covered gaming by wire or phone across state lines, and most senators agreed it was due for an overhaul. Last year, according to the Justice Department, more than $600 million was wagered illegally over the Internet. In 1996, it was a mere $60 million. Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.), whose proposal passed 90-10, hopes to bring it down to zero.

Senators also shut down a loophole the size of Las Vegas: Internet sites run by Indian tribes. An amendment from Kyl's fellow Republican Larry Craig would have turned them into online reservations. Even though that idea died, Justice isn't happy about the prospect of trying to arrest virtual casino owners, many of whom live overseas. If a similar gaming ban passes the House, get set for a rerun of Prohibition -- with Capone-style cyber-gangsters serving gamers and sipping cocktails in the Cayman Islands.