Internet Gambling: Is there a fair bet?

25 October 2011

Internet Gambling: Is there a fair bet? –  That was the name of the hearing today by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trades. Hopefully this was another step towards regulating and legalizing online gambling in the United States.

Some like Poker Players Alliance chairman and former Sen. Alfonso D’Amato (R-N.Y.) say it is inevitable.

“The status quo is badly broken and benefits no one,” D’Amato said. “Internet poker has not gone away and it’s hard to envision a scenario where it will.”

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas)has legislation he presented this summer that would legalize online poker said;

“I learned to play poker, believe it or not, in the Boy Scouts. If you learned something in the Boy Scouts, it has to be a good thing.”

Maybe that’s an over dramatization but it does seem the way most people are thinking these days. The Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative released this press release concerning todays hearing.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Experts testified today that government oversight and regulation of Internet gambling activity in the U.S. presents the best opportunity to protect consumers at a hearing titled, “Internet Gambling: Is there a fair bet?”  Setting the stage for the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trades hearing was the recent Full Tilt Poker indictment, which further exposed the failure to provide guaranteed safeguards for U.S. consumers.  Pending legislation to regulate the industry, which has gained bi-partisan support, would ensure consumer safeguards, generate tens of billions in new government revenue and create tens of thousands of new jobs.

“People are playing poker on the Internet in the U.S. for money today,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX).  “It’s not regulated and so these sites are offshore, overseas and, consequently, outside the ability for us to tax the winnings and make sure it’s a fair game.”

A researcher of gambling behavior among high school and college aged youth, Dan Romer, associate director of The Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of its Adolescent Communication Institute (ACI), testified that federal regulation provides the best opportunity to protect our youth.

“[B]y controlling online gambling the federal government could minimize the harm that this activity can inflict on the young and their families and could also make the use of these sites safer for them,” concluded Romer in his written testimony.

Currently, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement and Protection Act (UIGEA) of 2006 does not prevent Americans who want to gamble online from doing so, leaving many exposed to the dangers of fraud, identity theft, and compulsive gambling.  This very sizeable underground marketplace does not benefit the U.S. economy in any way.  The only beneficiaries are offshore operators, who exploit the U.S. laws.

“Members of Congress heard valuable testimony today on the ineffectiveness of existing laws that attempt to prohibit online gambling. As many as 10 million Americans, who continue to gamble online, are being left at risk,” said Michael Waxman, spokesperson for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative.  “It’s time for Congress to take control of this already-thriving underground marketplace to protect consumers, create new jobs and stimulate our economy.”

Earlier this month, Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) in a written submission encouraged the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the “supercommittee,” to include provisions to regulate and tax Internet gambling activity as part of its deficit-reduction package.

Several bills have been introduced this year to regulate online gambling activity.  The Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act (H.R. 1174), introduced by Representative John Campbell (R-CA), includes language identical to what was overwhelmingly approved last year by the House Committee on Financial Services.  It would implement practical and enforceable standards to control Internet gambling activity and protect consumers. Additionally, the Internet Gambling Prohibition, Poker Consumer Protection, and Strengthening UIGEA Act of 2011 (H.R. 2366), introduced by Representative Joe Barton (R-TX), would regulate online poker and strengthen attempts to block unlawful Internet gambling activity.

H2 Gambling Capital, the leading supplier of data and market intelligence regarding the global gambling industry, projected in a report released last year that regulating all forms of Internet gambling except sports wagering in the U.S. would generate a gross expenditure of $67 billion over five years and 25,470 new jobs.

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