Proponents of online gambling ban serve "demon rum" at House hearing
26 Mar 2015
By Vin Narayanan
By Vin Narayanan
Two simple words uttered by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.) perfectly summed up the farcical testimony offered by proponents of federal legislation to ban online gaming in front the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations on Wednesday.
"I don't think the issue is whether or not government should regulate gaming because it's bad," Poe said. "I think we tried that with prohibition, or 'demon rum,' as my grandmother liked to call it. And look where that got us."
Poe didn't mean to characterize the witnesses in favor of banning online gaming with this broad brush stroke. He realized the trap he was walking into when he began his soliloquy with "No offense, Mr. Bernal," referring to the national director for the Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation who opposes all forms of gambling.
Poe was actually focused on whether the federal government had the right to regulate the Internet in all instances. But his inadvertent characterization of the testimony to ban online gaming was spot on. It was all "demon rum."
John Kindt, a professor of business administration at the University of Illinois law school, said online gaming would destabilize Wall Street and the stock market by creating a "bubble" for online gaming stocks that would eventually burst.
Les Bernal said state governments were forcing citizens to gamble at casinos and on the lottery.
Washington University Law Professor Michael Fagan said there is no way "any individual or combination of state governments, can expand to the degree necessary to effectively police and regulate the likely scale of legalized Internet casino or poker."
These statements don't just strain credulity. They shatter it into a million pieces.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), openly mocked Parry Aftab, Wired Safety's executive director, for believing that geolocation and identify verification technology worked, even as she provided direct evidence supporting her testimony.
Chaffetz also argued that his Restoration of America's Wire Act (RAWA), which bans online gaming at the federal level and gives states no say in whether they want offer online gaming within their own borders, is a bill that protects state's rights.
Kindt, Bernal and Fagan made no effort to hide their disgust and disdain for all forms of gambling. When asked if they opposed online gaming or all forms of gambling, all three readily admitted they were against all forms of gambling.
When Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) asked if RAWA would hurt the Louisiana Lottery, which he made clear funds teacher pay and other educational initiatives, Kindt and Bernal essentially accused him and the state of Louisiana's of accepting the devil's money and said he should run away from it. Aftab actually answered the question and said RAWA would stop any online lottery ticket sales.
For Kindt, Bernal,Fagan and Chaffetz, it's all just demon rum. No credible evidence was provided to defend their claims. No attempts were made to refute the clear and overwhelming evidence that regulation is working in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. Online gambling was demon rum and it had to go.
There’s nothing wrong with being against gambling. But being against gambling doesn’t excuse you from presenting facts.
Congressional hearings shouldn't be places where facts are irrelevant. They shouldn't be places where you can make ludicrous claims and charges without submitting any facts or evidence. That's how you end up with McCarthyism.
The room housing the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations is actually pretty small. Yet despite its size, there's an august feeling about the room. It feels like a seat of power, where important decisions are made after carefully weighing the facts.
Andrew Moylan, who runs the pro states' rights R Street Institute, and Aftab came to the hearing prepared with facts and arguments about why regulated intrastate online gaming is good for states' rights and good for consumers. Aftab noted that there were three cases in Nevada where kids managed to play online poker at a regulated site. She also explained in a fair amount of detail how identity verification works. Moylan explained exactly how the assumption that Internet commerce (and other activities) can only be regulated by the federal government “eviscerates” the commerce clause in the Constitution. They upheld the honor of the room.
Chaffetz, Kindt, Bernal and Fagan served demon rum. And that's a disgrace.