SALT LAKE CITY — Gambling via the Internet is already illegal in Utah, but state law needs to specifically say that to pre-empt federal law from letting on-line gaming slip in, the bill's sponsor said.

Rep. Steven Sandstrom, R-Orem, had to tweak his HB108 before the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend the measure banning Internet gambling to the full House.

Sandstrom said measure is needed to keep Indian casino gambling from getting a toehold in Utah.

"That's what this law, quite frankly, is really about," Sandstrom said.

Utah and Hawaii are the only two states without any form of legalized gambling.

"I think that defines who we and what we are as a state," he said. "I think that's one reason we're so productive."

Sandstrom presented his bill Tuesday but had to remove a requirement that Internet service providers that provide service in Utah must block access to gambling websites before the committee would vote on the bill.

Sandstrom explained the connection between Internet gambling and Indian casinos is a proposal before Congress that would allow online gambling.

The proposed federal law, HR1174, includes a provision that would allow an individual state to opt out of the law, if it notifies the U.S. Department of Treasury within 60 days.

HB108 would require Utah's governor to exercise that opt-out right.

But if by some circumstance that fails to happen, HB108 would still protect Utah's no-gambling status, Sandstrom said, by codifying it as illegal, thus further signaling Utah's intent to opt out of HR1174.

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