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Public Statements

Time to Enforce Internet Gambling Laws

Op-Ed

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Time to Enforce Internet Gambling Laws

For years, illegal Internet gambling sites have found ways to continue operating. Some have slipped by due to lax enforcement. Others have gotten around the law by moving their operations offshore. Whatever the reason, these unlawful sites have largely been carrying on unhindered since technology has enabled them to operate.

While physical gambling enterprises like casinos, horse tracks, and betting parlors are able to enforce age restrictions, virtual gambling over the Internet is easily accessed by kids. Because most illegal gambling sites only require a credit card in order to place bets, minors are easily able to access them by using a parent's credit card or stealing someone else's.

The unique, seemingly anonymous, environment created by online gaming encourages addiction in gamblers of all ages, and some sites are used as fronts for money laundering, drug trafficking, and even terrorist financing.

Last year, Congress sought to close the loopholes that keep these sites in business by passing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) with bipartisan support. President Bush signed UIGEA into law last fall.

The idea behind this legislation is to shut down illegal online gambling sites by choking off the funding that keeps them afloat. This is accomplished by requiring financial institutions and payment systems to block transactions going to these illegal sites. With no way to receive payments, gambling web sites are no longer able to conduct business.

Like many things passed by Congress, however, the enforcement of this new law has been less than satisfactory.

UIGEA calls upon the Treasury Department, in conjunction with the Justice Department, to actively identify unlawful online gambling organizations and block their financial transactions. This is similar to the efforts taken by the Treasury Department to block the transactions of known financiers of terrorism and organized crime.

So far, this effort has not been pursued seriously enough to make any real dent in illegal gambling operations. Simply stepping up efforts to identify unlawful Internet gaming operators and blocking their funding stream would go a long way toward fulfilling the aims of UIGEA.

In the meantime, the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), has introduced legislation that would effectively undo UIGEA by licensing offshore Internet gambling businesses so they could establish legal operations within the U.S.

Now is not the time to go backward on this issue. The President's signature of UIGEA last year was the result of a years-long effort to find a way to clamp down on illegal online gambling.

It would be a tremendous mistake to ineffectively enforce this measure after all the work that's been done to see it become law. UIGEA seeks to crack down on illegal activity that encourages addiction, endangers minors, and provides a money-laundering resource for criminals and terrorists.

The answer is not repeal, feet-dragging, or additional legislation. The answer is for the Administration to get serious about enforcing what's already on the books.


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