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Couple Sues to Recover Online Gambling Debt

A couple in California is suing the credit card companies and card issuers that allowed them to gamble and lose more than $100,000 from online casinos in 2002 and 2003. The lawsuit seeks to relieve the couple of the debt.

Lisa and Andrew Harding claim that by processing their bets, the businesses violated not only California's Unfair Business Practices Act and a state law that prohibits providing credit for gambling but also the USA Patriot Act, which bans any illegal transfers of funds. The couple's lawsuit is actually a countersuit to a lawsuit originally filed by Retailers National Bank. The credit card company charged the couple with not paying the debt, CNET News reported.

The Hardings are suing credit card companies Visa International, Visa USA, MasterCard International and Discover Financial Services; several card issuers, including Retailers National Bank and Citibank; and Western Union Holdings, which transferred the funds electronically.

Because of the financial dangers and addiction associated with Internet gambling, many efforts are being made to ban it in the U.S. In July, the Senate Banking Committee approved a bill to block U.S. financial institutions from processing online gambling transactions; the House has passed a similar bill.

Many major credit card companies have policies against processing Internet gambling transactions (although a few bugs appear to be in the system), and eBay's online payment division, PayPal, has stopped sending payments to these types of businesses. Efforts by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer since June 2002 have resulted in many credit card issuers and banks agreeing to block these types of transactions.

Legislators and U.S. financial institutions still might face an uphill battle. A recent report, "Wagering on the Internet," from River City Group and Christiansen Capital Advisors, LLC, predicts revenues from online gambling will double to $12.6 billion in three years. Most of the revenue still comes from gamblers in the U.S. who find ways to send funds to offshore Web site operators around the world where Internet gambling is legal.

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