The Wall Street Journal Online asked Rep. Leach and David Carruthers, chief executive of BetOnSports Plc, an online sports book and casino based in Costa Rica, to debate whether Internet gambling should be banned in the U.S. Theirs of the Internet are counterproductive for society.
When consumers deal with an offshore entity, they give their personal financial information to unknown individuals, who, by definition, are engaged in criminal activity. Internet casinos introduce a gaming room in homes, offices and school dormitories with bettors who abdicate the comprehensive protections afforded by U. S. law. Offshore Internet gambling sites sweep dollars out of the U. S. into largely unknown, often criminal hands.
The potential threat of identity theft and fraud is high for the individual bettor just as the risk posed to our national security from terror and criminal organizations that control such sites or used them for money launder. Internet gamblings characteristics are unique: Online players can gamble 24 hours a day from home; children may play without sufficient age verification; and betting with a credit card can undercut a players perception of the value of cash, leading to gambling addiction, bankruptcy and crime.
The illegal Internet gambling business is booming and the consequences of this unfettered illegal activity are profound. Americans will send nearly $6 billion to unregulated, offshore online casinos this year, nearly half of the $12 billion bet world-wide on Internet gambling. These sites evade rigorous U. S. -based regulations that control gaming by minors, problem gamblers, and ensure the integrity of the games. But Internet gambling is more than a theoretical issue of technology confronting law.
Society is the family writ large, and it is the American family that is jeopardized by the lure of Internet gambling. Problem gambling can lead to serious psychological and physical as well as financial harm. Individuals who become hooked frequently lose their jobs, homes and marriage and sometimes even contemplate suicide. Internet gambling is not alone in causing such consequences, but it facilitates and accentuates the challenges posed by problem gambling. The problem with the current circumstance is that enforcement tools are so inadequate.
What the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (H.R. 4411) basically does is make it illegal to use a bank instrument such as a credit card or money transfer or check to settle an internet wager. No approach to squelching Internet gaming will ever prove perfectly effective, but one that constrains the payment system has the highest chance of achieving credible results. H. R. 4411 focuses on the gambling business, not the gambler. It puts the principal enforcement burden on financial intermediaries such as banks. The law stays generally static on what is illegal; but enforcement is upgraded by making it more difficult for an Internet casino to operate.