Monday October 20,2014 : ACTIVIST RESPONDS TO LATEST C.S.I.G. OP-ED.
Minton questions allegation that online gambling is more dangerous than other forms of betting.
Consumer activist Michelle Minton has been quick to respond to US politician and former mayor of Denver, Wellington Webb's latest anti-online gambling editorial in support of Sheldon Adelson's Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.
In his op-ed tirade titled “The hidden dangers of Internet gambling” Wellington again pushed the general CSIG line that online gamblers are "chumps", and that it is more dangerous, addictive and unfair than other forms of gambling….for example at Adelson's land casinos.
Minton is the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Fellow specialising in consumer policy affairs that include internet gambling, and wrote in the New Pittsburgh Courier questioning Wellington's slur on internet players, and asking in what way internet gambling was more of a threat to players than state-run lotteries and brick-and-mortar casinos.
"An [federal] online gambling ban will do nothing to protect consumers – but it will protect the profits of brick-and-mortar casino owners like Webb’s boss, Sheldon Adelson," she wrote, arguing that a regulatory approach would improve player safety by enabling states to implement and enforce their own effective safeguards against bad conduct by operators.
Minton went on to factually examine the origins of the 1961 Wire Act which Adelson wants to resurrect in order to ban most forms of online gambling in the United States:
"Webb erroneously claims that the U.S. enacted a federal online gambling ban in 1961 with the passage of the Wire Act, which was intended to target mobsters engaged in sports wagering. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, the Wire Act’s architect and principal supporter, had no intention of imposing a federal ban on gambling," she asserted.
"His targets were organized crime syndicates whose activities crossed state lines. Specifically, he was interested in targeting the “kingpins of the rackets” rather than their underlings.
"In testimony on the Wire Act, Kennedy only talked about the mob's activity involving horse racing and “such amateur and professional sports events as baseball, basketball, football and boxing. He also made it clear that the Wire Act was intended to assist states in enforcing their laws on gambling, not to create a federal ban on the activity.
“Kennedy testified that ‘the federal government is not undertaking the almost impossible task of dealing with all the many forms of casual or social wagering.’”
Minton flags the key change in Department of Justice policy in December 2011, when officials conceded that, so long as it didn’t involve sports gambling, states were free to legalise and regulate online gambling within their borders – a development that ultimately led to many states considering or implementing online betting leglislation, and Adelson's threat to spend whatever it takes to halt the process.
Addressing Webb's claims that a ban is necessary to protect American consumers from the "unique" dangers of internet gambling, Minton observed that online gambling is legal in 85 nations, and the global rate of problem gambling has in fact been declining since the late ‘nineties.
She recalled that in the United States pathological gambling has remained stable and has even slightly declined since the 1970s, according to Harvard addiction specialist Howard J. Shaffer after an extensive study online gambling behaviour.
Moreover, there is no evidence that online gambling is more addictive than offline betting, Minton asserted, quoting the results of Shaffer's series of studies by the Harvard Medical School’s Division on Addiction Studies, where researchers concluded that online gambling may in fact be less addictive than other forms.
The activist argued that unlicensed and unregulated gambling places consumers – both in traditional and online gambling – at a greater risk from dishonest operators, and points out that internet operators are probably better equipped technologically than brick-and-mortar contemporaries to address these concerns, referencing the recent positive experiences in Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey, three states that offer legalised online gambling.
Minton concluded: "Webb may think online gamblers are “chumps,” but criminalizing the activity hasn’t and won’t make them stop. State authorities already have the ability to decide what consumer protection tools their licensed online casinos should adopt. The only way to protect consumers from any threat posed by online gambling is to bring the activity out of the dark."