By Mike Brunker Projects Team editor
msnbc.com
updated 12/20/2004 10:37:16 AM ET 2004-12-20T15:37:16

Internet gambling foes have long argued that its efficiency poses an unacceptable threat to youth and gambling addicts – a position best articulated in Sen. Jon Kyl’s memorable catch-phrase, “Click the mouse, lose the house.” But in 2004, congressional opponents summoned up a new villain – terrorism.

Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, played the terror card during hearings in September. Online betting, he said, has created “a dangerous loophole in our anti-terror finance and anti-money-laundering machines that can easily be exploited.”

Oxley later attached a provision to bar the use of credit cards, checking accounts, money orders, etc., to bet online to the intelligence reform bill , but it was stripped before Congress approved the bill on Dec. 8

It was the eighth straight year in which Congress has failed to pass legislation aimed at strangling Internet gambling. Nonetheless, Oxley is expected to try again in 2005.

Despite the legal uncertainties, millions of Americans took the Net betting plunge in 2004. Most of the newbies visited Internet poker sites , which rode the unexpected surge in popularity of the Old West card game to success. Best guesses are that poker now generates more than $1 billion a year in revenue in an overall Internet gambling market of $6.5 billion.

In the meantime, the United States’ staunchest ally in the war on terror, Great Britain, continues to move ahead with plans to become “the hub of the global gambling industry” as part of an update of what the government says are antiquated gambling laws .

U.S. efforts to deter Net betting also took a hit from the World Trade Organization. The WTO in November upheld a complaint by Antigua stating that United States attacking online gambling to proect its legal gambling industry. The U.S. Trade Office called the decision "deeply flawed" and said it would appeal.

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