In a significant victory for Visa, MasterCard, and several card-issuing banks, a federal judge in New Orleans has dismissed two class actions filed by people who lost money through Internet gambling and argued that they did not have to pay their card debts because the card companies were engaging in racketeering.

Dozens of lawsuits like this have been filed in state courts around the country, and at least one plaintiff has won debt forgiveness. But in the only federal cases so far, Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. of U.S. District Court in New Orleans ruled Feb. 26 that the plaintiffs did not show that the card companies were engaging in a “criminal enterprise,” merely that their line of business had inadvertently aided online casinos that would be illegal in the United States but were legal in their host countries.

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