By Rep. Steven Horsford
NNPA Guest Columnist
Recently, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb published a column discussing what he claims to be the “hidden dangers of online gambling.” As a Congressman representing the fourth district of Nevada, I cannot disagree with Mayor Webb more strongly. The gaming industry is the lifeblood of my state and my district, supporting our economy through thousands of jobs and creating a robust tourism industry. I know what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to gaming.
Like Mayor Webb, I too know the dangers of illegal gambling. I have read the studies and seen the reports. But the notion that somehow Congress can simply legislate this problem away by instituting an ill-advised ban on all online gaming nationwide is ridiculous.
I have heard the argument that a federal ban is needed in order to protect children and under-aged players from gambling online using their parents’ credit card.
While I am sure both Mayor Webb and I agree that children should not have access to online gaming sites, there has not been one single case of this happening in any of the three states – Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey – in which online gaming is legal. In fact, states like these that have successfully implemented regulated systems have created a much safer environment for consumers, including minors, who may currently be gaming illegally on overseas and black market sites.
Regulated online platforms, like those seen in my home state, Delaware and New Jersey, protect children far better than any federal ban. These states have taken the lead in creating safe, well-monitored sites and ensure that no one, let alone a child, is drawn into putting their money or identities at risk on off-shore, unlicensed black market sites. Nevada also knows how to keep gaming a safe industry that provides jobs with smart regulation.
Finally, let’s not forget it was President Barack Obama’s Justice Department that issued the reinterpretation of the Wire Act in 2011, which clarified the original intent of the law. When Bobby Kennedy drafted the Wire Act back in the 1960s, the purpose of the legislation was to fight the evils of illegal gambling and organized crime, not to stifle innovation or inadvertently promote an illegal black market for online gaming. We have certainly come a long way since then, and it would be a travesty for Congress to single-handedly reverse course by implementing a comprehensive ban. What would legal players in Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey do if their systems were completely shut down? They would flood into overseas black market websites that are unsafe, opening themselves up to serious risks of identify theft, fraud and money laundering.
States cannot ignore the fact that they are missing out on hundreds of millions of dollars in potential revenue from online gaming, which could be used to improve schools, libraries and healthcare systems across the country. We simply cannot turn off the internet or pretend that this technology does not exist. It is time to embrace innovation and technology, and stop putting up roadblocks that will ultimately lead us back to the days when the mob ruled the black market.
Congressman Steven Horsford represents Nevada’s fourth congressional district. He is the first African-American to represent Nevada in its federal delegation.