State legislator group hears online gambling testimony

During a meeting in Boston Friday, state lawmakers from across the U.S. belonging to the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) listened to testimony about online gaming. During the two hour hearing, they heard from people against online gaming and those who want to see a Congressional commission formed to study the industry before any laws are passed against it.

The NCLGS, a pro states' rights organization in the U.S., has been opposed to Internet gambling in the past because it interferes with the states' ability to regulate gaming within its borders. However, emerging technology and other issues have led the organization to reconsider its position.

Legalization of Internet gambling is appealing because businesses could be taxed to bring in more revenue for the states. Speakers during the hearing brought up that countries such as Australia and Britain have had success in legalizing the practice, and that it is even happening in Oregon, where the state has legalized multi-jurisdictional betting hubs used by account wagering companies.

The Council's possible change in stance comes at the same time the American Gaming Association (AGA) is also calling on Congress to study the online gambling issue further before passing H.R. 4777, the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, and H.R. 4411, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which together would effectively ban online gambling in the U.S.

AGA senior vice president and executive director Judy Patterson was at the NCLGS meeting to discuss the results of a study the AGA commissioned on online gamblers which showed that only 19% of the 552 Internet gamblers surveyed realized, or were willing to admit, that online gambling is illegal in the U.S.

In addition, 55% believe online casinos find ways to cheat players, and 46% said they believe other people who bet online find ways to cheat.

Patterson summed up the findings as showing "confusion" by players. While the AGA remains neutral on the issue of Internet gambling, it does support the formation of a Congressional study commission to tackle the issue and clear up that confusion. Representative Jon Porter (R-Nev.) recently introduced the Internet Gambling Study Commission Act which, if passed, would do exactly that.

The NCLGS will accept testimony about Internet gambling through Sept. 1, 2006, and could possibly adopt a revised policy on the issue during its winter meeting in early 2007.

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