Saturday February 15,2014 : PUBLIC DEBATE ON U.S. ONLINE GAMBLING CONTINUES (Update)
Former Congresswoman speaks against online gambling ban.
Former Congresswoman and chair of the House Commerce Subcommittee on Trade and a member of the Subcommittee on Technology, Mary Bono entered the fray on calls for a ban on internet gambling this week, writing an op-ed piece in the Washington DC publication Roll Call that was subsequently picked up by other political newspapers.
A Republican, Bono urged members of Congress not to buckle under powerful calls from wealthy land casino owner Sheldon Adelson to impose a "sweeping" ban on internet gambling.
"Congress should tread extremely carefully before it even thinks about banning lawful activity on the Internet," Bono wrote. "Whether you gamble or not – and whether you participate in Internet games or not – it is clear that the prohibition of Internet gaming is a bad idea for Americans."
Bono pointed out that such a federal ban would infringe on both individual and state rights, would eliminate a path forward for consumer protections and would "…put Congress in the position of banning technological innovations the public has already widely embraced."
She went on to warn that large numbers of American consumers are already gambling online, and a Congressional ban would drive that activity to the dangerous black market, which lacks protections for consumers and increases the risk of criminal activity.
"There is no question whether Americans are gaming online. More than a million are," she wrote. "Instead of trying to put the Internet [genie] back in a bottle, and ignoring technological and consumer demand, Congress should be focused on making it safe for all Americans."
In a parting shot, Bono reminded politicians that licensed and regulated online gambling can deliver tax revenues for key projects in education, transport and public health.
Another Republican, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, took an opposing view in his op-ed, which appeared to hew closely to the talking points that have become so familiar in the anti-online gambling rhetoric of Adelson's Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (see previous InfoPowa reports).
Deploying the scare tactics of criminal involvement, money laundering and dangers to society, Jindal argued that internet and mobile gambling is fundamentally different to land gambling, making the unsubstantiated claim that land gambling staff are trained to guard against underage gambling, whilst it is impossible for online gambling websites to match their capabilities.
And of course he brought the FBI perspective – or the CSIG's spin on that body's opinion – into his allegation that online gambling sites are frequently used for fraud and money laundering, and that online measures against fraud and underage betting are easily circumvented by criminal elements.
Jindal firmly nails his colours to the Adelson mast in concluding: “I will do everything I can to stop Internet gambling from spreading to Louisiana,” a statement that must be viewed in the context of the timing and tone of his op-ed, its theme, and the fact that Adelson is a major Republican Party donor.