Debate over Internet Gambling in the US Continues

US gambling laws - GamingZion

While New Jersey is moving forward with sports betting, the rest of America wants to go back to a time when internet gambling was banned.

The 2014 Global Gaming Expo has revived the debate on legalizing online gambling sites in the US. The event was hosted at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, between September 30 and October 2, so it comes as no surprise that Sands chief Sheldon Adelson took the opportunity to give a speech on the harms of internet casinos.

But he wasn’t the only one who felt the need to express his opposition against virtual gambling sites. In an opinion piece published in the New Pittsburgh Courier under the title “The hidden dangers of Internet gambling”, former Denver mayor Wellington Webb explains why Americans shouldn’t play online.

“Hidden dangers” brought to light

Three states have virtual casinos or online poker sites in the US:

• Nevada
• Delaware
• New Jersey

“Gambling on the Internet is for chumps,” Webb summarized in the beginning on his article and then went on to add: “‘Chumps’ is an old-school reference to naïve and foolish people, the ones who think if they make just one more bet they will strike it rich but instead find themselves in a deep, deep financial hole.”

Wellington Webb, who served as mayor of Denver between 1991 and 2003, said the first one to foresee “the dangers of illegal gambling and organized crime” more than 50 years ago was former US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who pushed for new regulations to protect citizens. Of course, the Wire Act was one of them, he said.

All these efforts to guard the wellbeing of Americans were rendered useless by the Justice Department in 2011, when – “without consulting Congress” – it decided that the Wire Act did not apply to certain types of Internet gambling.

Wellington Webb - GamingZion

Wellington Webb explains why Americans shouldn’t play online

Webb is not impressed by the perspective of increasing tax revenues from virtual casinos either: “I acknowledge that legalized gambling in casinos, approved by voters in my state of Colorado, has helped the state raise needed revenue for our community colleges and historic preservation. The difference is the casinos are a controlled environment where limits are set and additionally the casinos provide jobs.”

To all these arguments – and to his elaborated “chump” theory – he added that “there are no limits with Internet gambling except a person’s own self-control,” and invoked a 2009 study which showed that “Black Americans are nearly twice as likely to be disordered gamblers.”

A reminder: Adelson hates online casinos

For a brief period of time, American gambling news went quiet and didn’t mention Sheldon Adelson’s war on online gaming. But the topic came up again at the end of September, when the casino magnate appeared in front of a numerous audience, at a major trade show in Las Vegas, to preach about the dangers of virtual casinos.

“When you’re on the Internet, you cannot know your customer,” he said, suggesting that the Internet makes it easy for underage customers to play.

The casino president didn’t want to hear any counter-arguments, especially the one about how online gambling should be legalized because people are doing it anyway. “Then why don’t we legalize prostitution? Why don’t we legalize cocaine and heroin?” he asked, adding: “That’s not a good reason, to say that they’re doing it anyway.”

Adelson didn’t forget about the centerpiece of his usual set of arguments either – that virtual casinos exploit the poor. “I don’t want those people to get abused because when I look at people like that I see the faces of my parents,” he told those present. “I just don’t see that there is any compelling reason to put an electronic casino in 318 million hands.”

New Jersey getting ready to take bets

Meanwhile, New Jersey lawmakers are trying to write gambling history by pushing for sports betting in the state. Although American gambling laws only allow residents of Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon to wager on sports, lawmakers are hoping that Gov. Chris Christie will approve a recent proposal that would create a loophole, allowing sportsbooks in New Jersey too.

The state assembly passed the new legislation by a 73-4 vote this week, sending it to the governor, who now has 45 days to act on it. Bill 3711 partially repeals the state-wide ban on sports betting, paving the way for both casinos and racetracks to start taking wagers as soon as the governor approves it.

In an interview with ESPN, Monmouth Park attorney Dennis Drazin told reporters: “We hope that Gov. Christie will sign the bill in time for us to start taking bets Oct. 26.”

Dennis Drazin - GamingZion

Monmouth Park attorney Dennis Drazin

In reality, it’s not that easy. Lawmakers still have major obstacles to pass, after the NCAA, NFL and other major sports leagues have challenged the new rules in court. The next hearing is scheduled for November 21.

Is online betting coming to NJ?

Earlier in August, when a similar bill was introduced, Christie took all 45 days to think about the matter before reversing it and instructing law enforcement to stop enforcing betting restrictions at casinos and racetracks in the state. Senator Raymond Lesniak is hoping that the governor will support the latest bill.

Ryan Rodenberg, an assistant professor of sports law at Florida State University said: “The bill passed today appears to be more consistent with Third Circuit’s ruling. Given this passage of the bill, it will be revealing, if Gov. Christie is inclined to sign it and whether he does it before or after the Nov. 21 hearing date. It will reveal whether Gov. Christie intends to still pursue sports betting in the state of New Jersey through two different tracks.”

NCAA policies dictate that championship events will not be held in states that offer sports betting. If the bill passes, it will certainly set a precedent and change the face of America’s sports industry. With internet gambling being legal in New Jersey, it might even pave the way for online sportsbooks in the state.

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