Barney Frank's bill finds more support

Congressman Barney Frank
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.)

In a recent meeting in Barbados, several Caribbean governments came together for the Conference of the Caribbean Community, pledging their support for Rep. Barney Frank's bill to legalize and regulate online gambling in the United States.

The members of CARICOM are: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

"CARICOM's endorsement of Congressman Frank's Internet gambling bill is another significant indication that the U.S. must readdress the way it now treats Internet gambling," said Jeffrey Sandman, spokesman for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative (SSIGI), which was formed to support regulating the industry in the United States.

Currently the United States is violating the World Trade Organizations trade regulations by not allowing online gambling. The case was brought against the United States by the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda.

"Rather than face billions in trade sanctions for WTO violations, we hope that members of Congress will instead regulate Internet gambling in order to comply with the WTO, better protect consumers and generate billions of dollars for important government programs," Sandman said.

Frank's bill, the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act, would regulate Internet gambling and put in place a licensing and regulation system that would protect against underage and compulsive gambling and ensure the integrity of financial transactions.

SSIGI spoke with experts who agree regulating the industry would be much better protection for the public rather than a prohibition.

"The graphical and interactive structure of the Internet provides a revolutionary opportunity to create informed customers with access to a variety of information designed to encourage safe choices and discourage unsafe behavior," said Keith Whyte, National Council on Problem Gambling executive director.

"Clearly gambling on the Internet raises some difficult issues, but it provides theoretical opportunities for operators to deliver responsible gaming programs that meet or exceed current standards in the bricks-and-mortar gaming industry."

SSIGI notes that existing technology and security controls have already proven to be effective in addressing compulsive gambling online.

Available safeguards include the ability to control the amount of money wagers, set limits on amounts deposited, restrict the duration that somebody can play and identify players with problem gambling patterns and stop them from playing.

There is also a system in place for people to voluntarily exclude themselves from online gambling so they won't even be able to access it.

Andre Wilsenach, CEO of the Alderney Gambling Control Commission, which is responsible for overseeing regulations for Internet gambling activities in Alderney in the Channel Islands, weighed in with his opinion as well.

"The Commission's experience indicates that the customer's ability to make informed choices, to have information readily available regarding spending patterns and to have access to an independent body if aggrieved, are all significant measures towards reducing the risk of compulsive gambling," he said.

"The robust regulatory framework proposed by Congressman Barney Frank presents a viable opportunity to protect American consumers and combat problematic gambling," said Andrew Poole, GamCare head of online services

"Across Europe and the rest of the world, experience has shown that regulated Internet gambling and the implementation of proven safeguards can ensure more responsible gambling operations and off-set increases in problematic gambling."

Sandman said opponents of Internet gambling are just using scare tactics and misstating research studies to argue that Internet gambling will result in more problem or compulsive gamblers.

He cites "Assessing the Playing Filed: A Prospective Longitudinal Study of Internet Sports Gambling Behavior," a study done by the Harvard medical School Division of Addictions, as refuting that idea.

The study found that Internet gambling provided a relatively cheap form of entertainment that wasn't any more likely to encourage excessive or problem gambling than other forms of gambling.

"The current prohibition of Internet gambling is not stopping people from gambling online and does nothing to protect against problem gambling," Sandman added.

"The regulatory framework presented in the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act, introduced by Congressman Barney Frank, provides an effective approach to protect consumers and ensure measures are in place to combat compulsive gambling."

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