Saturday August 16,2014 : FUROR OVER NEWSWEEK ARTICLE CONTINUES (Update)
Author denies bias amid widespread criticism of "one-sided" approach to online gambling story…but don't expect a correction any time soon.
The response to Newsweek's lopsided article on the evils of online gambling has been immediate and scathing, with numerous blogs and other online publications slamming the author for the many inaccuracies in the piece, weak fact-checking and its biased nature.
Among the latest to voice an opinion has been Poker Players Alliance executive director John Pappas, who commented: "I'm not sure where I should begin. There are so many problems with this story. It is full of inaccuracies and twists of truth that it would take days to sift through them all. Most troubling though is that the reporter clearly only spoke to one side and then wrote a story. There has been a robust and ongoing debate on this issue and to only present one side is a failure in journalism."
PPA Vice President Rich Muny added on Facebook, "What a one-sided opinion piece… Nothing but opinion, cherry-picked supporting quotes, and personal attacks on a DOJ attorney who interpreted the Wire Act as it's written rather than by how some with agendas sought to twist it."
The publication Poker News specifically criticises factual inaccuracies in the story, and bluntly asks Newsweek whether there had been any direct or indirect involvement of land gambling mogul and anti-online gambling advocate Sheldon Adelson.
It characterises the Goodman piece as "…downright lop-sided, bad journalism through a source such as Newsweek that is regarded as respectable by so many," and claims "…much of the piece is just outright false in nature."
Poker News references Adelson's support for Utah politician Jason Chaffetz, who is widely quoted in the Goodman article, and who is a prime driver in federal legislative attempts to reintroduce the Wire Act as a means to ban most forms of online gambling.
John Mehaffey of the respected US Poker blog was so irritated by the article that he contacted Newsweek to protest and ask for corrections:
"We contacted the Newsweek’s corrections department about the inaccuracies described above, which are irrefutable, and many others mentioned in rebuttals published yesterday on other sites. We did not receive a response to our contact and no corrections have been made.
"We also reached out to media relations at Newsweek for comment on our story. We did not receive a response to that either.
"I personally contacted Leah McGrath Goodman [author of the disputed piece] via Twitter. Goodman returned one of my tweets, “Dates were all verified. If you have any other issue, just let me know”.
"We understand the point that Newsweek is trying to make in the article. The author and Newsweek are against online poker and its regulation. We do not agree with them, but respect their position and their right to have it.
"There are egregious errors in the article that need immediate correction. At this point, Newsweek has refused to make necessary changes to remove false information, even after being contacted repeatedly by many in the online poker industry. We find that to be completely irresponsible."
Parry Aftab, founder and director of WiredSafety, and a lawyer with expertise in cyberlaw and child advocacy, also protested to Newsweek regarding the Goodman article, writing:
"We vehemently disagree with the conclusions set forth in this piece. Leaving politics and legal interpretations aside, there is only one real issue here. How can we make sure consumers are safer with legalized online gaming than they are under the former regime banning it?"
Aftab, who is associated with the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection, expressed the view that the best way to protect consumers of all ages from the risks posed by online gambling-related issues is through regulation.
"Such regulations should include: auditing of the fairness of the games and player practices; enhanced security tools and technologies for age verification, consumer education, parental control technologies, effective dispute resolution systems and recourse against fraud; and technologies to help those who might have difficulties controlling their gambling," she suggests.
"Age verification systems are robust and effective as are authentication systems that can manage addictive gambling. Parental controls are effective in blocking access to even non-gambling game sites. A strict regime that vets the licensees, prevents money-laundering and screens for malicious code, and scams will also require the latest and most effective technologies to limit online gambling-related risks, as will geolocation restrictions.
"Some states, including New Jersey, have already taken this approach, successfully regulating and licensing online gaming to provide consumer protections for residents."
In her response, author Leah McGrath Goodman acknowledges that her story has "received a great deal of attention," but denies that it is biased or politically motivated, without specifically arguing the point by point criticism levelled at the piece by a number of writers with opposing views.
"The piece sought to question the transparency of the legal process that allowed online gambling to be introduced in its latest incarnation; the role of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Obama administration and deep-pocketed private gambling interests; and the risks of online gambling in a wireless world – particularly one in which serious problem-gambling is concentrated among some of the youngest members of our society," she argues, opining that the policy decision of the Department of Justice back in 2011 that the Wire Act applied only to online sports betting should have been subjected to public debate.
Goodman claims that she spoke to a wide range of experts on the subject before putting pen to paper, but surprisingly does not appear to accept that the thrust of her article is patently lopsided, despite widespread and continuing condemnation from those with an opposing view, who have specifically detailed the numerous inaccuracies and seemingly poor fact-checking.
She casts doubt of the efficacy of ID verification and geo-location technologies deployed by regulated online sites in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware, yet does not appear to have either tried these systems out herself, or spoken to companies and executives specialising in these technologies.
Instead, she apparently relies on cautious caveats from regulators that no system can be fool-proof.
She does acknowledge that there may be merit in the idea that prohibiting online gambling will not help solve its ills.
"This story sought to highlight the importance of the democratic process, an open forum for debate and a strict assessment of the risks to all Americans — not just adult players — as part of any discussion on legalizing online gambling," she concluded in her response to Aftab.