WASHINGTON — With pressure mounting on the federal government to find new revenues, Congress is considering legalizing, and taxing, an activity it banned just four years ago: Internet gambling.
On Wednesday, the House Financial Services Committee approved a bill that would effectively legalize online poker and other nonsports betting, overturning a 2006 federal ban that critics say merely drove Web-based casinos offshore.
The bill would direct the Treasury Department to license and regulate Internet gambling operations, while a companion measure, pending before another committee, would allow the Internal Revenue Service to tax such businesses. Winnings by individuals would also be taxed, as regular gambling winnings are now. The taxes could yield as much as $42 billion for the government over 10 years, supporters said.
The two measures — which are backed by banks and credit unions but have divided casinos and American Indian tribes — are far from becoming law. A bill to legalize online poker sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, has not yet had a hearing. The Congressional timetable has little spare room before the midterm elections, and the Obama administration has not taken a position.