Fear Based Senate Internet Gambling Hearings

At one time the case for federal online gambling legislation was the right of adult American’s to spend their hard earned money as they wished and the need for new revenue streams for state governments. Congress didn’t buy the argument and online gambling remained illegal. Many feel that the legalization of internet gambling is inevitable but a Senate panel hearing held recently shows that many in congress are against the legalization of internet gambling and are using some arguments that can only be called ridiculous to back up their positions.

The US Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance held the hearing titles The Expansion of Internet Gambling: Assessing Consumer Protection Concerns.” The senators and panel of “experts” actually praised the draconian Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act which was passed using the most dishonest tactics. The lawmakers also criticized the 2011 decision by the justice department that paved the way for states to legalize internet gambling within their borders. Senator Dean Heller said “The reason the administration changed this was so their friends in Illinois and New York could put their lottery tickets online. With one decision, the DOJ effectively rendered all laws that have been on our books, put together by members of Congress over 50 years…useless to regulate and stop Internet gambling.”

Fear seemed to be the dominant theme in the hearings. The so called “experts” trotted out the same old tired arguments about money laundering, human trafficking, gambling addiction and even included terrorism. Many of the witnesses said that the government needs to protect citizens from themselves. Evidently they forgot the disaster of prohibition. One witness actually said that players should be subject to criminal penalties. Jack Blum, always a handy witness, was the one that proposed criminal penalties for players. Blom, ever the intellectual, said “I think gambling is dumb.”

Subcommittee Chairwoman Claire McCaskill expressed worried that interstate compacts between states that have legalized online gambling “will make it incredibly easy for consumers to gamble across interstate lines.” McCaskill added “Online gambling is inherently an interstate matter. The borderless Internet does not recognize the boundaries and jurisdictions of individual states.” Lawmakers brought up several potential problems. Most have already been addressed by the online gambling industry in the UK and Europe but credible evidence was in short supply during the hearings. Senators also failed to explain the connection between online gambling and human trafficking and terrorism.

In the UK and Europe the online gambling industry has been relatively scandal free. Operators have sophisticated software in place to identify problem gamblers and age verification software prevents minors from gambling. In the UK there are 350 internet bingo sites and dozens of online casinos and the government takes in millions in taxes annually. After reading some of the comments by politicians it may be a long time before Americans have the freedom to spend their money as they see fit.