Internet Gambling: A Bad "Deal"
Jon Kyl, July 24, 2006
A Harvard professor once appropriately likened Internet gambling to crack cocaine use because of its highly addictive and harmful characteristics.
Internet gambling’s characteristics are unique because: online players can gamble 24 hours a day from the comfort of their home; children may play without sufficient age verification; betting with a credit card can undercut a player’s perception of the value of cash, leading to possible addiction and, in turn, to bankruptcy, crime, and suicide; and there is no enforcement commission, such as those that exist in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, to protect consumers from excessive losses or fraud.
Online gambling is a particularly pernicious form of gambling, and many Americans are hooked on it. Indeed, Americans bet $5.9 billion on Internet gambling in 2005, nearly half of the $12 billion bet worldwide on Internet gambling, according to a report by Christiansen Capitol Advisors.
The recent arrests of executives from BETonSPORTS.com for racketeering, and indictment of another gambling website for laundering $250 million, highlight other unsavory aspects of the online gambling industry.
Young people, the most computer-savvy, are particularly at risk. Numerous articles have documented the harms to youths. Recently, the president of the sophomore class at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania robbed a bank to pay off his Internet gambling debt, and a young man in Scotland attempted suicide after using 13 of his parents’ credit cards to run up almost $300,000 worth of Internet gambling debt. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has acknowledged the harms, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is particularly concerned about the risks to college students and has urged a legislative remedy.
For more than a decade, I have sought to enact legislation to thwart Internet gambling. On five separate occasions, a bill has (by wide margins) passed the House or the Senate but not cleared the bicameral hurdle. With the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approving a bipartisan bill in July, I am working to try to pass a bill in the Senate.
Ironically, one of the opponents is a national Indian organization - ironic because the bill has absolutely no effect on Indian gambling. The group simply wants to use opposition to this bill to leverage other legislative advantages.
The core of the House-passed bill, which is similar to what I have previously introduced, would cut the money flow from financial institutions to Internet gambling websites by requiring financial institutions and payment systems to establish procedures for preventing these transactions. So the gambling entity would simply never be able to collect the debt owed by the gambler.
The effort to enforce the ban on Internet gambling is not partisan. Not only did the House of Representatives approve the bill with an overwhelming bipartisan majority, but the Senate effort is being led by Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) and me. And every major athletic association, including the National Football League, Major League Baseball, and National Basketball Association has endorsed this effort.
We will continue to work to move this legislation through the Senate - Congress is closer than ever to finally banning Internet gambling.
Senator Jon Kyl, a Republican, represents Arizona in the U.S. Senate. He serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Finance Committee, and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
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