Congressional Hearing on Internet Gambling Yields No Consensus

“Internet Gambling: Is there a fair bet?”   was the topic of a Congressional Hearing today in Washington. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trades hearing took two and half hours to consider changing the federal ban on internet gambling. In the end, it looks like some yes votes are present in

“Internet Gambling: Is there a fair bet?”   was the topic of a Congressional Hearing today in Washington. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trades hearing took two and half hours to consider changing the federal ban on internet gambling. In the end, it looks like some yes votes are present in the Subcomittee but we are still very far from anything resembling a consensus on the subject  . . . or a change in the current laws.

Near the very top of the hearing Joe Barton (R-TX) who is the author of the Barton holds up Bodog verification Internet Gambling Prohibition, Poker Consumer Protection, and Strengthening UIGEA Act of 2011 (H.R. 2366), showed a piece of paper that was a screenshot of a recent signup at Bodog.  Later it was revealed by Alphonse D’Amato of the Poker Players Alliance that this signup was that of former PPA director John Pappas.  This display was the start of an attack on current online operators.  Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) pointedly asked the panel of experts if any of them received money from current offshore operators – apparently the PPA and National Council on Problem Gambling do. The experts did agree when asked if operators who are currently breaking the law by taking bets from Americans should ever be allowed to continue by becoming licensed. With the exception of a bit of dancing by the PPA’s D’Amato who brought the question saying that they (current online operators) are not all ‘violating’ current laws, all experts answered “No”.

Much of the testimony and hearing circled around two issues: underage gambling and the fairness of the games. Apparently some elected officials do not think that age verification can be done on the Internet. Knowing your customer was a topic at the GIGSE conference back as early as 2004 and all of the EU operators employ this type of technology. In addition, had these officials ever played online they would realize that they may be able to open an account and use a credit card to sign up and deposit, but without proper ID, they won’t be able to withdraw. I think that would be a pretty big deterrent for any underage gambler.

This hearing was really about Internet poker, though occasionally casino games and sportsbetting came up. The word “Bot” was thrown around so much it was annoying and puzzling at the same time. But many of the Representatives have done their homework and understand today, more than any of the other hearings I have watched, the game, how it works on the Internet and the pitfalls of online poker.

Ms. Bono Mack (R-CA) was the chairman for the hearing and she ended by making two things “clear.” “First we are going to be very thorough in examining a wide range of issues related to Internet gambling before coming to any conclusions and secondly at the end of the day we are going to do what is best for American consumers.” Though the issue of whether or not Internet gambling in any form is legalized in the U.S does appear to be gaining favor in these economically stressed times, today’s events would lead anyone to believe legalization is still over, not on, the horizon.

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