December 3, 2009 (PAP Newswire) – Today, the U.S. Congress finally held a formal hearing addressing Barney Frank’s legislation to regulate and fully legalize online gambling — particularly online poker — in the United States.
At the hearing, representatives from the gambling industry were allowed to speak. Most of the charges they ended up defending themselves against revolved around the risks of identity theft to online poker players.
Indeed, the main argument that U.S. conservative politicians are making against legalizing online poker seems to be the risk of identity theft — a strange shift in tactics from their previous resistance to online gambling on “moral” grounds, or out of concern for “problem gamblers”.
“There are several ways to cheat at online poker, none of which are legal,” Shawn Henry, an assistant director for the FBI, wrote in a letter that was presented by Representative Spencer Bachus, a chief opponent of Frank’s bill.
“Technology exists to manipulate online poker games in that it would only take two or three players working in unison to defeat the other players who are not part of the team,” the letter continued. “The online poker vendors could detect this activity and put in place safeguards to discourage cheating, although it is unclear what the incentive would be for the vendor.”
“Today’s illegal online gambling is a Wild West affair,” counter-argued Michael Brodsky, executive chairman of Youbet.com Inc., which accepts online wagers on horse racing. Internet betting on horse and dog racing is legal in many states. … The only way to put any controls on Internet gambling is to legalize it and regulate it.”
So what was accomplished at the hearing? Nothing definite. The best result is the fact that Congress is finally willing to give the issue time. That, combined with the recent delay of the UIGEA implementation, can be seen as a hopeful sign.