FBI letter steals the show at preliminary hearing for legalizing
The biggest talking point bulletin to come out of last week’s preliminary hearing in the House Financial Services Committee was a letter written on November 13th by FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director Shawn Henry. The letter which was read by Online Gambling opponent Senator Max Bauchus (R-AL) – who claimed in 2006 that 1/3 of college students who gamble online attempt suicide, a number seemingly pulled out of thin air—was full of generalized language with nothing in the way of concrete facts.
Since it seems you can pretty much stand up in Congress and say whatever you want –without any proof or data to back you up—the letter went mostly unopposed, and was regrettably the lasting memory of the hearing.
Unfortunately, the topics the letter addressed do need to be seriously debated, not because the allegations Henry makes are correct, but to prove that legalization and regulation will permanently rectify these problems. The flip side is to keep online poker in this “gray” area, which will only insure that the issues are never fully solved.
The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) Executive Director, John Pappas, rebutted Shawn Henry’s letter with the following statement:
“Every concern the letter raises is better addressed by licensing and regulation than by prohibition. The letter misconstrues much about the current state of online poker, but it does so in a way that clearly makes the case for why federal oversight is necessary. Licensing and regulation is the most protective measure we can take to ensure the online community can be properly monitored while maintaining our internet freedom.”
While Henry’s letter has the credentials of FBI brass, it offers no verifiable proof of any of the allegations, making the letter no more helpful to the online poker debate than a Sunday op-ed piece on the Iraq War from the New York Times. Throughout the letter Henry points out they have not taken a close look at the industry, and have not engaged in talks with other law enforcement agencies in countries with legalized online gambling. There is a lot of use of the words “potential”, “possible”, and “could very well”.
The letter does address some viable concerns though, such as what do the sites have to gain by implementing procedures to detect cheating, which Henry explained in the following manner: “It really comes down to a cost analysis for the vendor. How much money will I make or lose by detecting cheating and implementing safeguards?” And on the issue of location verification Henry had this to say: “While geolocation can be accurate when used to determine the physical country of residence, it becomes exponentially less accurate when determining the city or zip code.”
House Financial Services Committee Chairman, Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) has introduced two separate bills to deal with online gambling: Most notably HR 2267, which would legalize and regulate the online gaming industry, and provide an estimated $42 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. Under the bill, online poker and gambling sites would need to go through a licensing process to make certain the proper fail-safes are in place to protect their customers.
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