MATTERS OF CONGRESS


Congressman John Campbell...


You gave testimony this morning to the House Subcommittee on Commerce Manufacturing and Trade. What was the purpose of the hearing?
Congressman Joe Barton from Texas has introduced a bill to legalise Internet poker only, it doesn’t go to other things, and the regulator would be the Department of Commerce so that puts it in the jurisdiction of this Subcommittee. This hearing was on that bill and on this subject. If you introduce a bill and you don’t have a hearing it means that no-one is going to be interested in your bill because it’s not going anywhere.

Most bills that are introduced here in Congress don’t get a hearing... they just sit there. Thousands are introduced every year but only a few hundred will become law. The fact that the Chairwoman of the Committee, Mary Bono Mack (California), decided to hold a hearing means that she’s interested in perhaps moving the bill. It’s a very good sign as it means the Committee and the Committee Chairs are interested in the subject and are perhaps interested in moving the bill. It’s not a guarantee, but it certainly shows that they’re interested.

How was your personal testimony greeted by the Subcommittee?
I think it went well, based on their comments and body language. I felt good about the hearing. There were three members of Congress who testified: myself, Barney Frank from Massachusetts who is co-author of my bill, and then Frank Wolf, a Republican who opposes the bill. There were two for and one against, but I think that the arguments we made with regards to why we need the bill were pretty compelling. I think it went well and it continues to go well.

What about Mr Wolfs testimony? What points did he raise regarding his opposition to the regulation of Internet gambling?His main argument was based on problem gambling. He believes that Internet gambling makes it more accessible to people - basically, a casino in their house 24/7. There will be more people who gamble and more people who have problem gambling, more under-age people and college students and this will lead to a lot of gambling problems.

Our counter to that was that we understand that there is problem gambling just as there is problem drinking. In the 1920s in America, we banned alcohol and it didn’t work very well. There was actually more problem drinking and it turned a lot of law abiding Americans into law breakers when they brewed their own alcohol in their backyards. That’s what’s going on now. Americans are going to gamble, they like to gamble and they’re doing it online with overseas, offshore (and illegal) sites that don’t provide them with protections that a regulated legal site would provide.

Our argument was that there is going to be problem gambling whether you make it legal or not, but we can actually deal with it better if we regulate it. In the second panel there was someone who had been a problem gambler who was saying “I have a problem and if you make it legal but keep me from getting on it, if I’m on a list and can’t get on, it’s good, whereas if it’s not legal, there are plenty of places that I can get on where they don’t care whether I’m a problem gambler or not.” We can actually deal with problem gambling better. Mr Frank put it best, he said, “A prerequisite for consumer protection is (making) the activity legal. You have to make it legal in order to provide consumer protection.”
 
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