3 Of the Most Obvious Problems With USA Today’s Anti-Online Gambling Editorial

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USA Today recently published an editorial calling for Congress to put an end to online gambling regulation.

The editorial – which appeared only days after Sheldon Adelson announced his new campaign to beat back the tide of regulated online gambling – was rife with errors and misrepresentations.

Here are three of the most obvious.

They vastly understate the systems in place to prevent abuse

As USA Today tells it, the only thing minors will have to do to gamble online at regulated sites like those about to launch in New Jersey is buy a fake credit card number on the black market (you know, like kids are always doing):

Internet gambling advocates say they have screening programs designed to keep minors out […]  Does anyone seriously think that these firewalls wouldn’t be circumvented?

The FBI doesn’t. It told a House committee in 2009 that age verification programs were easily beaten because they generally relied on credit card numbers, easily purchased on the black market.

This is a gross mischaracterization of the actual systems in place to prevent underage gambling. But you don’t even need to wade into technical waters to understand that USA Today’s claim is false on face.

Consider: How far does that stolen credit card number get you when you try to deposit – a necessary precursor to gambling – at a regulated online casino? And what’s your plan when the site asks you for information that will allow your online gambling activity to be reported to state and federal tax authorities, as required by NJ regulations? Finally, how do you propose to cash out your ill-begotten winnings?

The hypothetical underage consumer in USA Today’s scenario would have to commit multiple felonies – state and federal – to gamble online at a regulated site.

Of course, an underage gambler wouldn’t have to jump through any of those hoops at an unregulated site – but more on that later.

They don’t understand what the UIGEA is

If you’re writing an editorial about remaking national policy concerning online gambling, you might want to acquire more than a passing familiarity with the existing law of the land.

USA Today incorrectly characterizes the UIGEA in two separate spots :

The only thing lawmakers have to do is clarify that the 2006 law, and a 1961 law from which it drew, apply to all forms of online gaming.

Clarify that the 2006 law applies to all forms of online gaming, not just sports betting.

The UIGEA is, of course, not limited to sports betting. And the UIGEA already applies to “all forms of online gaming” insomuch that it draws on existing state and federal law to define illegal online gambling.

They completely ignore the reality that online gambling exists in the status quo – it’s just unregulated

What a terrible world it will be, claims USA Today, when regulated online gambling comes to pass. Just consider this hyperbolic snippet from their view of a post-regulatory America:

The nation has enough social pathologies to worry about without unleashing a new form of domestic gambling that is all but impossible to police or keep contained in one place. People with addictive personalities would either have to give up their smartphones, tablets and computers, or have a casino at arms reach 24/7.

That does sound bad.

Problem is, this argument completely ignores the fact that online gambling exists – and is easily accessed – in the status quo. It’s just unregulated online gambling.

That “pathology” has already been unleashed. The idea that vulnerable individuals have been sitting around waiting for a state-approved version of this thing they simply cannot resist is ridiculous.

This is a point that several have made before me, and that the AGA made well in their response, but it bears repeating regardless.

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