Why Online Gaming Needs a Politcal Action Committee

by Lou on October 30, 2006

Next week the British government will seek international support for legalized, regulated online gambling by adopting of a set of principles on Internet gambling. More than 30 countries are expected to send representatives. The United States will be conspicuous in its absence.

While the Brits are seeking to regulate online gaming, the United States enacted the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act, a piece of prohibition-style legislation tacked onto the “must pass” Safe Ports Act, enacted without discussion and without a recorded vote, at the 11th hour, just prior to congressional adjournment.

Britain’s decision to legalize and regulate online gambling companies is expected to yield financial benefits for the government by allowing it to tax companies that are expected to move back to Britain from a variety of offshore locations.

According to William Eadington, a professor at the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, said, “The changes may give U.S. gamblers more ways to evade the ban on Internet betting at home. A sub-industry in circumventing the rules will evolve,” Eadington said, adding that, “American gamblers may find themselves pushed into a market that’s in the hands of Europeans.”

Those opposed to UIGEA will be in Washington, DC on November 3-4 to protest the law and to press coverage from major news organizations and get the message out to the general public before they vote. The fact that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist attached the bill to the Safe Ports Act angered other politicians as much as it angered the 25 million American citizens who participate in online poker. “What could be a greater invasion of privacy than government telling you cannot play Internet poker in your own house?” congresswoman Shelley Berkley said. “This was a breathtaking abuse … of power.”

But if money is the mother’s milk of politics, all online gaming providers should take a page from the leading political action committees and establish a political action committee. Money contributed by PACs will ensure access to Congress and secure legislation that enables online gaming to be legalized, taxed, and regulated in the United States, as it is in Britain.

According to USA Today, here are the top contributors among PACs for 2005-06:

1. National Association of Realtors – $3.04 million
2. National Automotive Dealers Association – $2.38 million
3. National Beer Wholesalers Association – $2.36 million
4. International Brotherhood of Electrical – $2.13 million
6. Credit Union National Association – $2.02 million
7. National Association of Home Builders – $1.98 million
8. American Bankers Association – $1.97 million
9. United Parcel Service – $1.91 million
10. AT&T – $1.77 million

While the National Association of Realtors has 1.4 million members and the IBEW has 750,000, the National Beer Wholesalers Association has only 1,900 members. Their contribution amounts to $1,242 per member. That’s the highest per-member contribution by a long shot, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t seem all that much to buy the kind of access needed to maintain legislation favorable to one’s industry of choice.

It’s still not too late. I’d like to see the major online poker rooms, and the smaller ones too, form a political action committee and begin priming the pump to secure the kind of legislation that will guarantee the health of our industry.

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