Conservative Support For Internet Gambling Growing


In the United States internet gambling policies have largely been shaped by social conservatives. In 2006 the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was foisted on the American public using the most deceitful methods possible. The rules were not actually enforced until 2010 and until recently enforcement has been somewhat lax. Now it appears that some conservatives have changed their minds about internet gambling. The argument that taxed and regulated internet gambling could generate thousands of new jobs and generate millions in new tax revenues – and recent studies that show online gambling may be recession-proof – has gained acceptance with conservatives opposed to raising taxes.

Although the religious right remains vehemently opposed to all forms of gambling fiscal conservatives are taking a second look at the clear benefits that legal internet gambling could provide. Fiscal conservatives and libertarians believe in smaller government and believe that citizens should be allowed to dispose of their money as they see fit without government interference. Despite increased acceptance of internet gambling the Justice Department and the U.S. attorney’s office have not commented on their enforcement strategies regarding internet gambling. Testimony by the agency has made some outlandish claims associating internet casinos with money laundering and drug trafficking although no evidence has been presented to back up the accusations.

In July the advocacy group Fair Play USA was formed to build support for online poker and changes in internet gambling laws. Members include conservative Republican Tom Ridge who served as Homeland Security Secretary and child safety advocate Parry Aftab. According to the group’s head Marisa McNee Fair Play USA wants to build consensus among consumer advocates, parenting experts and law enforcement officials. McNee stated “We’d like to show Congress that there is broad support for the regulation of online poker, because federal laws really aren’t working with respect to Internet gambling. There needs to be consumer protection.”

The group wants to block online gambling access for minors and wants internet casinos to adhere to the same laws and standards as licensed land based casinos. Fair Play’s corporate sponsors include gaming giants MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment. Both companies have long been in favor of changing internet gambling laws in the United States. Most established gaming operators know that they can pass Federal regulatory tests that their offshore competitors cannot and are in a perfect position to benefit from legal internet gambling.

The latest poker legalization bill in congress comes from conservative Republican Joe Barton. Barton’s bill would create a blacklist of unlicensed online poker sites for banks and financial institutions to avoid. The bill would also make it a crime to cheat at poker and would ban the use of poker strategy software and ‘bots’—computer programs used to make bets based on algorithms. Although there is growing support for legal internet gambling among conservatives, the adversarial political climate in Washington may make it difficult to pass any meaningful legislation designed to chance established internet gambling laws.