Friday April 17,2015 : ONLINE GAMBLING LEGALISATION PROGRESS IN PENNSYLVANIA (Update)
Consensus among legalization bill sponsors, and a successful and balanced hearing.
Media reports from Pennsylvania on Thursday's online gambling legalization bill hearings are pretty much unanimously positive, portraying a professional political approach by members of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, which reportedly listened intently to the testimony of properly experienced and qualified people.
That's in stark contrast to the laughably biased Chaffetz hearing in Congress recently on the Restoration of America's Wire Act, where a negatively biased witness roster was widely criticised for both weighting and questionable content.
Pennsylvania politicians have also shown that they have the vision to cooperate instead of getting bogged down in self-interest; the hearing Thursday focused on chairman John Payne's HB 649 bill, but lawmakers Tina Davis and Nick Micarelli, who have introduced bills SB 920 and HB 695, co-sponsored his bill in the interest of making progress.
There may be a lesson there for Californian legislators who have been struggling for years to reach agreement on online poker legalization.
Thursday's meeting was the first of two planned hearings (the next is on May 6) and heard generally positive and factual testimony from experts representing Penn National Gaming, GeoComply, GLI, Caesars Entertainment, Spectrum Gaming and Sheldon Adelson's lieutenant Andy Abboud.
The latter was predictably negative, lamenting the lack of ‘bad actor' clauses in the bill, and delivering his now time-worn tirade of questionably accurate misinformation whilst pulling his equally old cellphone "casino in every pocket" stunt, which did not appear to make much impact.
In fact, Abboud found himself under pressure when members of the committee asked some embarrassing questions about his employer Las Vegas Sands and the penalties it has paid for money laundering and underage admission irregularities, along with allegations concerning the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
He appeared unable to satisfactorily answer any of these relevant questions.
They also quizzed his apparently contradictory claims that it is technologically "almost" impossible to exclude minors from online gambling sites, pointing out that LVS offers on-site mobile gambling facilities at the Venetian, which suggests a level of hypocrisy.
The Poker Players Alliance was quick to reject Abboud's testimony, claiming in a statement by executive director John Pappas:
"I am not sure who Las Vegas Sands is trying to fool. Their Pennsylvania casino has been fined numerous times for allowing underage children to wager and they actively promote mobile casino gaming and sports betting at their Nevada properties."
GLI (Gaming Labs International) in technical and fact-based testimony debunked another Abboud claim that online gambling companies cannot claim to comply with Know Your Customer requirements, giving evidence that online anti-fraud and verification technology can tell operators exactly who their customers are…probably more efficiently than land-based casinos.
Rounding off its presentation, the GLI also briefed committee members on the strong security software used by regulated operators, and its wide capabilities.
The GeoComply representative, Lindsay Slater, covered the developments in geo-location which have resulted today in measures that can be sensitive enough to discriminate between two online gamblers playing on opposite sides of a coffee shop. The hands-on practical presentation was reportedly both convincing and impressive.
Slater also underlined the efficacy of today's security systems, claiming that up to 350 checks are made when a customer attempts to be geo-located. This technology is already in use by companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook.
The testimony of other witnesses was equally comprehensive and informative.
It is difficult to envisage a more balanced, factual and wide-ranging overview of online gambling and its technologies than was offered to the Pennsylvanian politicians here….it is a pity that the Chaffetz and Graham Congressional committees on RAWA do not similarly equip themselves with real and factual information rather than the generally unsubstantiated and sensationalist ramblings we have seen thus far.