By Stephen Foley in New York
Published: 05 October 2006
The American horse racing industry paid more than $3m (£1.6m) in political donations, and spent millions of dollars more on entertainment and “education”, to ensure its exemption from the new internet betting laws that sealed the destruction of offshore online gambling.
The figures show a sophisticated lobbying effort targeted at specific Congressmen, and have infuriated executives from the UK-listed online gambling companies whose shares have collapsed by more than half in the past three days.
Supporters of online betting expressed their fury, claiming powerful groups within the US had been able to “buy” exemptions.
The internet gambling industry is vowing to learn lessons from the debacle, and promising to fund a new wave of lobbying to exempt certain forms of offshore gambling, or to promote full legalisation and regulation of internet betting in the US.
Americans gambled $6bn online last year, but the legislation passed unexpectedly last Saturday, and due to be signed into law by President George Bush within a fortnight, makes it illegal for financial institutions to process payments to and from gambling websites.
“The horse racing industry is not afraid or ashamed of saying that they were able, for want of a better word, to buy their exemption from the new laws,” says Michael Bolcerek, president of the Poker Players Alliance, which has been trying to raise money from online gamblers to fund a similar lobbying effort in Washington.
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