Thursday, July 18, 2013

Senate Hearing on Online Gambling: 'Experts' Decry Industry's Existence

Fraternal Order of Police president Chuck Canterbury tells
a Senate Subcommittee that "there are indications that
terrorists in Afghanistan have been using illegal gaming
sites to launder their money." 
Wednesday's Senate subcommittee hearing on online gambling offered plenty of right-wing polemic against the evils of gambling while offering neither real solutions nor a plan forward with regulatory legislation at the federal level, one of the purported reasons for the hearing itself.  This latest hearing was held by the Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance Subcommittee of the Senate's Commerce, Science and Technology Committee.

The hearing, with Claire McCaskill (D-MO) chairing and minority subcommittee leader Dean Heller (R-NV) running much of the show, was a dog-and-pony 1:40 display titled “Expansion of Internet Gambling: Addressing Consumer Protection Concerns.” It was tied to discussions on the Cybersecurity and American Cyber Competitiveness Act of 2013, Senate Bill 21 of the current session of Congress.

With one exception among the hearing's four "experts", they didn't talk much about cybersecurity, and instead railed against the evils of online gambling in general and the inadequacies of state-level regulation that made a bill such as that envisioned by Heller mandatory.

In addition to the one cybersecurity expert who testified briefly and gave a demonstration on biometric measures, Daon CEO Thomas Grissen, the other three seats at the "expert" table were filled by conservative advocates, who in equal measures railed against online gambling, praised the UIGEA, damned Attorney General Eric Holder for his Justice Department opinion in late 2011 that the 1961 Wire Act applied only to sportsbetting, and otherwise spent time demonizing the industry.

Odd thing: For a supposed Senate-level hearing dealing with cybersecurity and the implication that state-level security measures were inadequate, the word "geoblocking" was never mentioned.  Not once.

Instead, Daon's Grissen had to sneak in a plug for his firm's services between polemics from Matt Smith, president of Catholic Advocate, Chuck Canterbury, the very conservative South carolina president of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), and DC-area attorney Jack Blum, who's made a second career out of anti-money-laundering issues.  Blum's had a long career, too; his brief speech invoked historical gambling figures, but had precious little knowledge of modern cybersecurity, excepting a brief opinion that Bitcoins were dangerous and ought to be banned as a threat to the American banking system.  He also cited Al Capone, pre-Wire Act Las Vegas, Meyer Lansky and pre-Castro, Bautista-era Cuba as examples of gambling's long and sordid past, and Blum might have been around to experience some of that stuff in person.

This was a horrendous tour de farce, a dog-and-pony show offering plenty of conservative hangwringing but no real plan as how to move forward with federal legislation.  That federal legislation was needed was something all the Senators present seemed to agree upon, each who touched on the topic claiming that the state's just aren't up to the task.

As McCaskill said, early on, online gambling is "inherently an interstate matter."  Exactly why that form of gambling should be a federal area of concern when gambling is in general a state-by-state issue was never addressed.

For those interested in listening to a hilariously awful Senate hearing, a webcast of the proceedings is now archived and available for viewing on the Senate's Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee website.  Viewer will need to forward into that webcast 20 minutes or so to reach the point where the hearing actually gets underway.

No comments: