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Saturday, June 9, 2007

Surprise Testimony at Online Gambling Bill Hearing

Surprise Testimony at Online Gambling Bill Hearing
Two Witnesses With Ties to Problem Gambling Support Bill

A hearing concerning a bill that would tax and regulate online gambling took place today for the benefit of the House Financial Services Committee. The Committee controls the fate of Rep. Barney Frank’s Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act of 2007, which was introduced in April.

The most compelling testimony in favor of legalizing online gambling didn’t come from the mouths of members of the online gambling industry, but from those who deal with problem gamblers everyday.

Both Andrew Poole, of Online Services for GamCare, a charitable organization that addresses the social impact of gambling, and Keith Whyte, Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, pointed out how the proposed legislation would provide protection for both minors and problem gamblers.

“We are satisfied that if the move towards more responsible operation continues to gather pace, as is increasingly observed across Europe and the rest of the world, that the continued legitimate development of the industry need not be off-set against significant increases in problematic gambling,” Poole said. “Robust, formal regulatory frameworks undoubtedly represent the best opportunity for achieving this."

Whyte told the committee, which is made up of more than 70 members of Congress, that Internet allows for certain controls that are beneficial is helping compulsive gamblers that can’t be found in regular casinos.

“Problem gambling is a serious and even life-threatening mental health disorder," said Whyte. "However, the graphical and interactive structure of the Internet provides a revolutionary opportunity to create informed consumers with access to a variety of information designed to encourage safe choices and discourage unsafe behavior.

He also testified that technology now exists to limit and prohibit people who are compulsive gamblers, as well as minors, in ways that’s impossible to do at a brick and mortar casino.

“The technology also exists, unlike for other forms of gambling, to allow players and operators to set limits on limits on time, wagers, deposits, as well as to exclude themselves,” Whyte said. “Clearly gambling on the Internet raises some difficult issues, but it provides theoretical opportunities for operators to deliver responsible gaming programs that meet or exceed current standards in the 'bricks and mortar' gaming industry.”

Witnesses also addressed questions about the safety of deposits, fraud and money laundering. These witnesses, who all were from the payment processing industry, told lawmakers that technology now exists to provide complete regulation and feel that regulation is best for both the consumer and the government.

“Within the United States vast amounts of credit card transactions take place on a daily basis,” said Clive Hawkswood, Chief Executive of the Remote Gambling Association. “The system is well established and well policed in order to counteract fraudulent and criminal transactions. The only circumstance in which crime can flourish is if the activity is unregulated.”

The Remote Gambling Association is a trade organization representing remote gambling operators. The organization also promotes socially responsible gambling among its members.

Jon Prideaux, Chief Executive of Asterion Payments and a former senior executive at Visa, encouraged Government involvement with online gambling for the protection of the American consumer.

“We owe it to people who have experienced problems with Internet gambling in the past to introduce a regulated environment where the proper protection can be provided to the vulnerable,” Prideaux said.

The next step for this bill will be decided by the House Financial Services Committee. A vote will soon take place on whether the bill should move forward or not. If it moves forward, it may the House of Representatives sometime this summer.

Source: Card Player
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