Thursday July 18,2013 : LITTLE THAT IS NEW EMERGES FROM SENATE SUB-COMMITTEE HEARING
 
And only half the designated committee members pitch up.
 
In what is perhaps an indication of the gravitas some US senators attribute to finding out more about online gambling, a Senate sub-committee hearing this week ground through  repeatedly made and often irrelevant arguments; the chairlady left after starting proceedings;  and only half of the designated committee members pitched up to educate themselves.
 
The hearing on "The Expansion of Internet Gambling Assessing Consumer Protection” was held Wednesday by the US Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance, and was chaired by Sen. Claire McCaskill
 
Madam chair perhaps indicated a level of bias in her opening remarks, criticising the Department of Justice policy change on the Wire Act in late 2011 and opining that online gambling was a federal issue rather than a state by state matter.
 
The DoJ’s 2011 decision that the Wire Act applies only to sports betting triggered a move by a number of individual states towards intrastate regulation and licensing .  The change was mentioned frequently in Wednesday’s hearing.
 
Nevada Senator Dean Heller, who was one of the drivers in last year's failed Reid-Kyl initiative to federally legalise online poker mainly on Nevada's terms, stepped up and seemed more intent on party politics than addressing remote gambling.  However, he did show a clear distaste for lotteries going online and expressed a desire to see the notoriously outdated Wire Act given a new lease of life.
 
Panel member Senator Roy Blunt also appeared discontented with the Wire Act and the DoJ's change of view on the measure. Blunt was a supporter of the UIGEA back in 2006, and it appears that his antipathy to online gambling is little changed.
 
Fraternal Order of Police representative Chuck Cantebury opined that the federal laws on online gambling were unclear and outdated, and advocated a rethink. He was scathing about the DoJ policy change and the role that neighbouring Costa Rica allegedly plays in hosting online gambling companies accessing the US market.
 
He also implied that terrorism and money laundering might be assisted by illegal online gambling sites, but as usual did not clarify or substantiate his allegations with fact or statistics.
 
On the plus side, at least Cantebury appeared to accept that technology exists to mitigate the potential for underage or problem gambling.
 
Money laundering expert, investigator and lawyer Jack Blum appeared to have a personal contempt for gambling, but regaled the hearing with general tales of the association between gambling generally and organised crime.
 
He stressed the need for proper (federal?) regulation and licensing of online gambling to control a pastime that was clearly now a fact of US life and society, especially following  the DoJ change of attitude toward the Wire Act.
 
In a welcome change to the specific and the positive, the next witness was Daon Inc chief exec Tom Grissen, who made a heroic attempt to stay within the parameters of the hearing's title and explain the technological elements involved, especially in ID and location verification.
 
Regrettably, the politicians on the panel appeared more focused on hypothetical problems and how remote gambler personal details might be obtained and subverted for criminal goals.
 
Matt Smith, a witness from the Catholic Advocate action group, expressed typically anti-online gambling views and stressed the dangers to the under-aged.
 
Generally then, nothing new or particularly useful emerged from the hearing…other than plenty of unsubstantiated hearsay, and the antipathy of most of those taking an active part.