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AGA May Reconsider its Stance on Internet Gambling

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

           According to a number of media website reports, the American Gaming Association (AGA) may reconsider its policy on internet casino gambling. With the responsibility of the oversight of all forms of gambling, the AGA’s gaming policies are very prevalent to the industry. Having originally opposed online casinos, the trade association has shown signs of wavering its original stance on the issue.

            Following the growing interest in internet casino gambling, AGA President Frank Fahrenkopf has suggested that the organization is supporting a decision to conduct extensive research into the industry’s pros and cons made by Nevada Representative Shelley Berkley. The AGA voted to form a study group to do just that last month.

            Reports state that a top level meeting will be held to discuss AGA’s standing policy on internet gambling and consider the practical uses and negative impacts, should it be legalized. Although little has been said about who will attend the meeting, or what specifics the discussion will encompass, the industry is aware that the organization will be influenced by legislative attempts by Barney Frank, Robert Wexler, Shelley Berkely, Jim McDermott, and several others. It has been said that the meeting will cover topics like state or federal legislation and regulation over the industry.

            “I think a majority would probably be supportive of some internet gambling architecture, whether or not they would support a federal solution,” said Fahrenkopf.

            The overall consensus is for a state regulation to be implemented rather than federal, for reasons that State legislators have more hands-on experience with the issue, and the concern of federal US departments (like the Treasury) holding too much jurisdiction. It has not been specified whether the majority of AGA chairmen support the issue, but reports say that “some AGA members are keener than others to expand their businesses into the Internet milieu, and the current dire economic climate with declining land casino revenues may influence opinions.”

            The estimated tax revenue that internet casino gambling will generate per year ranges from $8.7 to $42.8 billion in the first ten years of its legalization, a factoid that would surely persuade some to vote in its favor.

            The argument remains, however, that the U.S. government has a moral responsibility to protect its citizens from the dangers of internet gambling. Guy C. Clark of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling reports, “The U.S. government’s obligation to protect its citizens from a toxic, addictive product exceeds its responsibility to please the gnomes at the WTO.

            “Gambling addiction rises predictably with proximity of games and speed of play. Nothing is more proximate than a personal computer, and nothing works faster. Plus, the internet adds the deadly element of anonymity. The neighbors won’t spot you at the virtual casino. Solid citizens with no previous criminal record commit outrageous crimes when addicted to gambling.”

            This argument, coming mostly from the Republican platform, in many ways contradicts the party’s idea of one taking personal responsibility for themselves, rather than relying on the government to bail them out.

            According to Martin Owens, Gaming-Issues Attorney, “The U.S. stands virtually alone in its uncompromising stance against internet gambling, a position that is writ large by the UIGEA and its actions at the WTO. The attempts to ban internet gambling are misguided, unproductive, and will do nothing to protect responsible adults.”