BetOnSport Focal Point of American Crackdown

Last week, a publicly traded company in Britain, became the focal point of an American crackdown on offshore casinos, where gamblers anywhere in the world can use the highly profitable sites to place wagers on sporting events.

In Washington, the House overwhelmingly approved legislation recently that would clamp down on Internet casinos in part by restricting the ability of American financial institutions to process wagers.

The legislative-prosecutorial one-two punch appears to be the most concerted effort yet by the federal government to undermine Internet gambling in an era of well-organized, publicly owned offshore casinos.

For the first time, Washington has succeeded in temporarily shutting down a publicly owned site and its effort has gained the attention of the operators, whose share prices plummeted last week.

While prosecutors argue that Internet casinos violate the law, there is no federal prohibition against actually placing a bet. So how much success the federal push can have "is a very profound question," said Representative Jim Leach, Republican of Iowa, the co-author of the legislation, who says the gambling is detrimental to families and the economy.

Nevertheless, executives, lawyers and analysts say that Washington, depending on the resources it is willing to commit, can at least make life miserable for the offshore casinos.

Offshore casinos "are going to continue to thumb their noses at the Department of Justice," Mr. Sinclair said. "The operators will say, "I'm sitting here in Costa Rica drinking a mai tai. What are you going to do?"

And, he said, if the government succeeds in shutting some sites, others will pop up

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