Professor: Rep misused gambling research

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According to the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative, Dr. Jeffrey L. Derevensky from McGill University is saying that the university's research on gambling addiction was incorrectly cited during June 25 hearing about a bill to stop the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

During a markup of H.R. 5767, the Payments System Protection Act, which is meant to stop the implementation of the UIGEA, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) cited research at McGill University that shows that one-third of college students who gambled online attempted suicide.

Bachus used the research to highlight his belief that banning online gambling was the right decision.

"This assertion, which is reportedly based upon our empirical research, is not predicated upon any factual evidence," Derevensky said in an interview with the SSIGI.

"None of the studies conducted with adolescents or college students, to the best of my knowledge, have looked at a connection between Internet wagering and suicide attempts."

Derevensky also raised his concerns about the research being misused in a letter sent to Rep. Bachus as well as to Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who introduced H.R 5767 into the House.

"It is disappointing that Rep. Bachus is using scare tactics and false claims in an attempt to justify why Congress should limit my ability to gamble online," said Jeffrey Sandman, spokesman for the SSIGI.

Derevensky said he believes there is actually an opportunity for Congress to better protect consumers in a regulated environment rather than with the ban Bachus is promoting.

"If Congress is serious about minimizing the threat posed by Internet gambling, it should look to create an environment where Internet gambling operators are required to put in place safeguards that protect against compulsive and underage gambling," Derevensky said.

Sandman said the SSIGI is encouraged by the academic community's support of Internet gambling regulation. Last week, a study conducted by the University of Western Ontario and the University of Nevada in Las Vegas also called for the legalization and regulation of online gambling.

"Just as legalized commercial gambling in casinos allows for governments to regulate it, so, too, could the legalization of online gambling allow for better regulation and attempts to reduce the growth of problem gamblers," said June Cotte, associate professor at the University of Western Ontario.

The SSIGI points out that existing technology and security controls have already proven to be effective in addressing compulsive gambling. The industry already has the ability to control the amount of money wagered, set limits on bets and amounts lost, restrict the duration people can play, identify and stop players who appear to have gambling problems and allow consumers to be excluded from online gambling.

The United States also has some bills in the pipeline in Congress already that would take steps toward legalizing and regulating online gambling in the United States. Frank introduced the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act in 2007 that would set up a framework for licensing online gambling sites in the nation.

That same bill, H.R. 2046, also includes mandatory safeguards against compulsive and underage gambling, money laundering, fraud and identity theft - all things that the members of Congress had wanted the online gambling ban to achieve.

Congressman Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) also introduced legislation recently with provisions to tax the online gambling industry and use the money collected to provide job training for people in the declining sectors of the economy and to provide educational assistance for foster care youth.

McDermott's bill also includes provisions to encourage responsible Internet gambling behavior and an awareness of unsafe practices.

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