Congressional Hearing Points Out Need to Legalize Online Gaming

by Lou on November 20, 2007

Experts testified before the House Committee on the Judiciary last week, calling for the U.S. to reverse policies related to Internet gambling and arguing that prohibition of Internet gambling activities violates the American principles of personal freedom and individual liberty.
They explained how the ban on Internet gambling violates U.S. treaty obligations with other countries and exposes U.S. businesses to potential criminal retaliation overseas. Additionally, Internet verification software technology was described that successfully protects against underage and compulsive gambling, further eliminating the rationale for banning online gambling activity.
“Today’s hearing made clear the arguments why Congress needs to reverse its current policies related to Internet gambling,” said Jeffrey Sandman, spokesman for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative.
Expert testimony at the hearing was provided by Representative Shelley Berkley (D-NV), professional poker player Annie Duke, New York University Law School professor Joseph Weiler and Michael Colopy, a representative of Aristotle Inc., a leading provider of verification services for child protection online.

Reversing U.S. Policies on Internet Gambling
Representative Shelley Berkeley (pictured far right) provided testimony on the need for Congress to change its policies related to Internet gambling and protect the million of Americans that continue to gamble online despite passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).
“According to Berkeley “The UIGEA actually made things even more confusing by targeting the financial sector rather than gamblers, and further memorializing the carve-out for horseracing. Although some Internet gaming executives have been arrested and some of the more reputable operators have stopped doing business in the U.S., an estimated 10 million Americans are still wagering online on poker alone, and they are doing so without the benefit of the protections afforded by effective regulatory oversight…I applaud this committee for attempting to lay the groundwork for a legislative solution that ideally would legalize online gaming, subject it to some sort of regulation, and protect underage and problem gamblers.”
Preserving American Freedoms
Professional poker player Annie Duke (pictured right) testified that Americans deserve the right to determine whether to gamble online without government intrusion.
“What’s at stake here is the right of individual Americans to do what they want in the privacy of their homes without the intrusion of the government,” said Duke. “This country was among the first to embrace the idea that there should be distinct limits on the ability of the government to control or direct the private affairs of its citizens. More than any other value, America is supposed to be about freedom. Except where one’s actions directly harm another person’s life, liberty or property, our government is supposed to leave citizenry alone. Examples of Congress straying from this principle are legion, but few are as egregious as The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.”

Duke hammered these points home during her appearance on Keep Flopping Aces, the internet radio show that Amy Calistri and I host each Thursday night at 9 p.m. EST. You can listen to this show in the archives, or by downloading it as an i-Tunes podcast.

Resolving the WTO Internet Gambling Dispute
Joseph Weiler, a professor of law at the New York University School of Law and an expert in the law of the WTO, provided testimony that the U.S. is in violation of its WTO trade agreements around Internet gambling and should seek to bring itself into compliance.
“The U.S. bans online gambling offered by overseas operators even though it made treaty commitments to allow it and even though it allows online wagering domestically, including for horse racing,” said Weiler. “We should bring our law and conduct into compliance with our international legal obligations. Our country is the trendsetter and leader in so many international arenas. Whether we like it or not, we lead by example. As our economy moves increasingly towards a high tech, knowledge based service oriented model and as we realize that our future prosperity will depend increasingly of tapping into export markets, notably the huge emerging markets such as China and India, is it really in our self interest to teach this particular example? How we would we feel if China prosecuted and imprisoned American businessman for engaging in commerce in China that the government there decided to ban despite its treaty obligations?”

Combating Compulsive and Underage Gambling
Michael Colopy, a representative of Aristotle Inc., a leading provider of verification services for child protection online, provided testimony on the opportunity to use technology and controls available on the Internet to combat compulsive and underage gambling.

“Online age and ID verification has matured as a needed solution such that any merchant may do online what is routinely done at stores every day across America,” said Colopy. “In fact, as ever more efficient technologies and databases have been developed, online transactions have become in many instances faster and less risky than the visual driver’s license scans that suffice for alcohol or cigarette purchases in America’s neighborhood convenience stores, restaurants and bars.”

Here’s my take on this:
There’s not a point made here that I disagree with. It’s our money. We earned it. And if we want to spend some of it playing online poker, the government had no right to tell us what we can do in the privacy of our own homes.

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