The House and Senate worked late into the night on Sept. 29 to finalize “H.R. 4954: Security and Accountability For Every Port Act” or the SAFE Port Act and get it to the House floor. By early in the morning on Sept. 30, just before adjourning for the election break, the House had passed the bill by a count of 409-2, and the Senate had agreed to the conference report by unanimous consent. Senate Majority Leader, and Presidential hopeful Bill Frist, R-Tenn., was the point-person for certain groups lobbying to ban Internet gambling with the addition of Title VIII to the legislation.
Title VIII of H.R. 4954 is entitled “Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006″ (the Act). The bill prohibits banks and other financial institutions from processing payments for online gambling companies. However, exempted from this legislative ban are state lotteries, fantasy sports leagues, horserace betting and Indian gaming. An earlier version of the bill — passed by the House on July 10, 2006 — approved an additional provision updating and expanding the 1961 Wire Act, which prohibits gambling companies from using wire-based communications to place bets, to specifically include use of the Internet. However, this provision was not ultimately included in the version finally passed by the full Congress. President Bush signed the bill into law on Oct. 13 — a Friday — a date that many offshore online-gambling entities are finding sufficiently unlucky as their potential U.S. market vanishes.