Thursday October 4,2013 : AMPLE PRECAUTIONS TO STOP MONEY LAUNDERING IN INTERNET GAMBLING
 
Financial chief says it’s time for Congress to federally legalise online gambling.
 
The Washington political newspaper The Hill carried an op-ed article Thursday written by Chris Thom, chairman of Secure Trading, Inc and for eleven years the main man on risk matters at MasterCard.
 
In the piece Thom says it’s past time for Congress to come up with a federal solution to online gambling, and that modern technology enables operators to minimise the risk of money laundering.
 
Thom notes that Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey have already legalised some form of online gambling, and that at least a dozen additional states are considering joining the action.
 
"Internet gambling is here to stay," he asserts, adding that millions of Americans can and do participate in all forms of Internet gambling every day in an unregulated, uncontrolled environment ruled by offshore operators.
 
"The big question remaining unanswered is whether all forms of Internet gambling are going to be properly regulated at the federal level, or will we end up with a patchwork of inconsistent state laws that fail to protect every American?" he asks.
 
Thom nails his colours to the mast in urging politicians to embrace a federal solution to avoid what he says could be a "regulatory race to the bottom," among individual states.
 
Referring to the oft-quoted political reservations on the ability to launder money through internet enterprises, Thom says:
 
"I know from first-hand experience that it is possible to regulate Internet gambling in a way that prevents criminals or terrorists from laundering money and protects consumers from fraud."
 
He opines that the risk of these evils can be controlled when financial institutions, in partnership with licensed operators, are required to vet origins of transactions, track cross-border movement, report suspicious as well as large transactions and deploy secure financial processing technologies.
 
"In fact, the capacity to implement these controls is greater in Internet gambling than it is in other forms of e-commerce and certainly land-based casinos where cash is often king and customer identities can go unknown," he argues, suggesting that a key to making this work is the use of credit cards within a regulated industry.
 
In his considerable experience, credit card firms provide protective frameworks for financial transactions, such as those used in Internet gambling in regulated European jurisdictions, and this method of depositing and withdrawing is essential to curtailing money laundering, because financial institutions vet money sources that service credit card accounts.
 
"In fact, while working in Europe, I did not see even one instance of money laundering associated with regulated Internet gambling," Thom observes.
 
He has other suggestions, one that will probably be viewed with some scepticism by operators with experience of players keen to register and get gambling.
 
He suggests that players should be made to undergo a similarly rigorous application process as is required when opening a bank account, and that operators must verify the identity of each player whenever they go online and ensure they are in a legal jurisdiction.
 
On operators, he urges stringent personal financial and probity checks before licensing, and a requirement for software providers to be licensed and subject to tough testing processes on the fairness of their games.
 
He additionally would like to see operators capping the amount players can deposit or withdraw at any one time.
 
The bottom line, says Thom, is that there is no question the US can have a healthy Internet gambling industry where fraud and other illegal activities are properly policed.