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Online Poker Banned? Check out Jansen’s Internet Gambling Testimony

Statement of Lisa S. Dean and J. Bradley Jansen
Before the Subcommittee on Crime
House Judiciary Committee
On the Internet Gambling Proposals
November 29, 2001

Internet Gambling Testimony Dean-Jansen“>Internet gambling

Statement of Lisa S. Dean and J. Bradley Jansen
Before the Subcommittee on Crime
House Judiciary Committee
On the Internet Gambling Proposals
November 29, 2001

Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, thank you for allowing us the opportunity to present testimony on H.R. 556, the “Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act”; and H.R. 3215, the “Combating Illegal Gambling Reform and Modernization Act.”Lisa Dean is the Director, Center for Technology Policy, and Brad Jansen is the Deputy Director, Center for Technology Policy, at the Free Congress Foundation, a Washington, DC based think-tank focusing on the culture of American conservatism and our Constitutional liberties.

The Free Congress Foundation strongly opposes H.R. 556 and H.R. 3215 because we believe they fly in the face of conservative principles of federalism, individual responsibility, and limited government.

As Free Congress has testified previously, we are deeply concerned about the speed with which gambling has spread from Las Vegas across the country and into American living rooms. However, of much greater concern to us is the speed with which the long arm of the federal government has spread from Washington, DC, into American living rooms.

While there are some who would oppose gambling at any cost, we recommend a more sober analysis of the cost-benefit ratio.In this case, the costs clearly outweigh any alleged benefits.These bills represent a major step backward in the fight against the creeping assault on individual liberty.

These proposals put several critical components of American democracy at risk.

First, this legislation makes a mockery of States’ rights and the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Throughout the history of this country, gambling has wisely been dealt with as a state issue. Community standards differ from state to state, and from region to region. Imposing a one-size-fits-all policy from on high in Washington, DC, is at best, misguided, and at worst, dangerous. We strongly believe that gambling in cyberspace, like gambling in the real world, should be dealt with at the state level, not at the federal level.

In addition, this legislation represents a blatant disregard for the principles of federalism on which this country was founded. Nowhere is that disregard more evident than in the way the bill deals with gambling on State lotteries. Taking the power away from states to regulate their own lotteries is an arrogant usurpation by the federal government of one of the most fundamental rights of states—the right to self-governance.

Second, these legislative proposals represent the worst kind of government-enforced industrial policy. They essentially say that all Internet gambling should be prohibited—except gambling on horse racing, dog racing, and similar activity. While some might suggest that the broad carve-outs contained in this legislation exist to preserve states’ rights, why have a bill at the federal level?

We believe that allowing some gambling over the Internet while outlawing others is nothing more than the federal government picking winners and losers in the marketplace, and question where the federal government gets the moral or legal authority to say that a bet on the Kentucky Derby is acceptable, but a bet on the Superbowl should be outlawed.H.R.3125, the Combating Illegal Gambling Reform and Modernization Act, carves out special exemptions for politically-favored special interests such as horse racing and jai alai.

Third, and perhaps most important, is the issue of government regulation of the Internet. H.R. 556, the Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act, would effectively deputize credit card companies as Big Brother forcing them to monitor our online activities and report them to the government.Giving the controversial Financial Action Task Force more legitimacy adds credibility to their campaign against privacy and for higher taxes.

We believe that the issue of Internet gambling is very much like the issue of smoking. While many of us abhor smoking, would never do it, and teach our children to stay away from cigarettes at all costs, we do not want the government to step in and tell us whether or not we are allowed to smoke. Because if the federal government can tell us whether we can smoke, or whether we can gamble, eventually it is going to try to tell us what we can read and where we can worship.

We also concerned about the unintended consequences and likelihood of mission creep with these proposals.They represent the first major threat by the federal government to impose a wide-ranging regulatory scheme on the Internet. As such, we believe it is not inconceivable that passage of this legislation could be the first nail in the coffin of a tax-free Internet.

But taxation is only one potential problem.When we use the term “gambling”, we are referring to casinos, horse racing, lotteries and other games of chance.The definition is a rather narrow one but for those who are seeking the opportunity to regulate the Internet, they would likely use this legislation to expand the definition of gambling to include online auctions or even day trading.From there, it is not much of a stretch to include other industries as well which Washington doesn’t like.

Proponents of these bills need to recognize past legislative realities. Congress has already passed specific laws supporting interstate gambling such as the Interstate Horseracing Act (1978) and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (1988).

Acknowledging that the United Kingdom has decided to make online gambling a legitimate industry, few people would agree with the characterization of “offshore gambling havens” as just small, tropical islands. The effect would be to encourage U.S. citizens to set up legal offshore bank accounts to gamble legally offshore which would not stop gambling but would hurt our banks and other financial institutions.

We realize that this is not the intent of the sponsors of H.R. 556 and H.R. 3215 but rather the intent of those who seek to control an industry that is young and inexperienced in the world of Washington politics, nevertheless, it is a stark reality and this legislation would give the green light to those who wish to regulate this new medium and marketplace.

These bills also separate those who are willing to have the federal government step in no matter what from those who truly believe in a limited federal government, and are leery of Washington stepping in to try to achieve goals that are best accomplished by the states or the private sector.

For these reasons, we strongly urge the Committee to reject the approach taken by H.R. 556 and H.R. 3215.

Thank you for allowing us to submit testimony, and we would be happy to answer any questions you may submit.