U.S. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank and other lawmakers on Friday urged regulators to delay the December 1 implementation of financial rules to enforce a ban on Internet gambling.
Enforcing the rules in two months time would put an unreasonable burden on regulators and the financial services industry at a time of economic crisis, the lawmakers said.
We are writing to strongly urge you to ... to extend the date of compliance for the final regulations implementing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act by one year, the lawmakers said in a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Congress passed the anti-gambling legislation in 2006, when Republicans still controlled both the House and the Senate. Most of the 19 lawmakers who signed the letter are sponsors of legislation to overturn the ban.
The bipartisan group included Republicans Ron Paul of Texas, Judy Biggert of Illinois and Peter King of New York.
A spokeswoman from the Federal Reserve said they had received the letter and would respond to it. There was no immediate comment from the U.S. Treasury.
The 2006 law, which cost European Internet gambling companies billions of euro in lost market value, prohibits credit card, check, and electronic fund transfer payments in connection with unlawful Internet gambling.
But rather than define what types of gambling are illegal online, the bill relied on existing federal and state laws to answer that question.
It also still allowed any online horserace betting permissible under the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978.
Treasury and Federal Reserve officials told Frank's committee in April 2008 they were struggling to determine what kind of online gambling was illegal under the bill.
But shortly before former President George W. Bush left office in January, Treasury and the Federal Reserve issued final rules and gave companies until December 1 to comply.
Frank and the other lawmakers urged Geithner and Bernanke in their letter to accept a petition filed by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the American Greyhound Track Operators Association and the Poker Players Alliance asking for a delay in the implementation of the rules for one year.
Frank's committee approved a bill to overturn the Internet gambling ban in September 2008, but the full House adjourned for the year without acting on the measure.
That bill establishes a regulatory framework to license Internet gambling operators to operate in the United States.
(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Andrew Hay)