New York Representative Peter King’s remarks about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs got a lot of attention in the press. Amazingly King said that Americans should be happy to have their privacy violated. His remarks overshadowed more substantial news: King’s introduction of the Internet Gambling Regulation, Enforcement, and Consumer Protection Act of 2013 a bill that would legalize most forms of internet gambling at the federal level. Today most industries have online counterparts. People routinely shop online, gather news and information and bank online. Unfortunately the gambling industry is prohibited from having an online counterpart thanks to puritanical federal legislation.
Even though King’s bill has garnered some bipartisan support most gaming experts do not believe there will be any kind of legislative action anytime soon. There is still fierce opposition to online gambling in some quarters. Religious extremists and social conservatives remain opposed to any legalization of online gaming. In addition there are casino and tribal interests that want special rights that will enable them to profit from online gambling. It has been estimated that despite the illegality of internet gambling Americans spend about $6 billion annually playing at offshore websites. Obviously a prohibitionist approach to online gambling has not been effective.
An effort by Senators Harry Reid and Jon Kyl to legalize online poker actually garnered the support of some right wing groups. The Catholic Advocate, American Majority Action and 60 Plus Association sent a letter to House and Senate leadership urging both houses of congress to move on a bill by both Senators that would legalize poker on the internet. The Reid Kyl bill would legalize poker but would ban all other forms of gambling even soft gambling games like online bingo.
Many advocates are not optimistic about King’s bill. At the present time it is difficult to say whether gambling proponents outnumber opponents in congress. In California 53% of voters approve of online gambling while in Iowa 73% are opposed to online gaming. There are powerful interests on both sides of the issue and both sides are well funded. The fight for legalization at the federal level is just beginning and it is almost impossible to predict what the outcome will be.