Rep. Titus: Congress Must Address Online Gambling Now

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Nevada Representative Dina Titus is requesting a House hearing on online gambling that would parallel the Senate hearing on the issue held last week.

Titus made her request via a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee asking for a hearing to “examine the expansion of online gaming throughout the United States and address the need for a national legal framework.”

Letter makes no mention of King or Barton legislation

The letter, which you can read in full here, references “previous efforts in Congress” but does not specifically mention the two bills currently active in the current session: Rep. Peter King’s bill to regulate many forms of online gambling and Rep.  Joe Barton’s bill to permit federal regulation of online poker.

Rep. Barton is a member of the Energy & Commerce Committee.

Arguing that regulated online gambling leads to more unregulated gambling

Those who watched the Senate hearing were probably somewhat confused by what appeared to be repeated ties between the increased regulation of online gambling in the United States and an explosion in the problems associated with unregulated online gambling.

Rep. Titus’ letter also advances that counter-intuitive narrative, asserting that as “the legal market for online gaming grows here at home, there will be an increased opportunity for bad actors to take advantage of U.S. citizens.”

It’s not an argument I agree with, and it’s one I have difficulty seeing logical support for.

What I do see are echoes of the AGA’s repeated attacks on state-by-state regulation of online gambling. And an extension of the AGA’s attempt to “bundle” the issues of unregulated online gambling and state-regulated online gambling as a single argument for federal regulation.

Or, as the AGA put it in their response to the Heller hearing: “To address current illegal activity and the threat posed by a state-by-state gambling expansion, the [AGA] encourages a federal ban on online casino-style “games of chance” and effective regulatory oversight of Internet poker. ”

Progress or politics?

Is Titus’ call for a hearing a legitimate sign of concrete legislative momentum for federal online poker regulation? Or is it simply political theater?

This being D.C., the right answer is probably “both.”

The PPA’s Patrick Fleming summed up the likely subtext in a TwoPlusTwo discussion of the recent Senate hearings:

Of course something is afoot. Nothing happens in DC unless something is afoot. It is a 95% staged show. This was an attempt to rile up Republicans reluctant to address the issue. It was also an opportunity for both side’s politicians to look good and make good sound bites with law enforcement.

But if Titus’ call for hearing is answered quickly and affirmatively, that will suggest a bit more life in federal efforts to regulate online poker than the general consensus assumes.

- Chris is the publisher of Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.
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