Right now, Congress is considering legislation which would allow States to establish licensing and regulation for Internet gaming sites. Opponents of this plan are pushing for a Federal ban on Internet gaming. The California State Lodge shares the view of the National Fraternal Order of Police–we cannot ban our way out of this problem. States should decide how best to regulate gaming within their borders to protect their citizens and raise needed revenue.
California is the largest market in the United States and is among the largest in the world. It is estimated that more than a million Californians are gaming online through overseas sites, which we know to be dangerous for gamers. These black market sites for Internet gaming offer no consumer protections. They are run offshore by unlicensed operators, drastically increasing the threat of identity theft, fraud or other criminal acts. There is also evidence that these gaming sites launder money for organized crime and help to finance terrorist networks. We know that these overseas gaming sites process billions of dollars every year, creating a breeding ground for transnational criminal organizations.
States like Delaware, New Jersey, Nevada–and now California–have taken the lead in creating regulated systems. Residents who choose to play have access to a well-regulated, well-monitored system and will not be drawn into putting their money or identities at risk on off-shore, unlicensed black market sites. In addition to making the Internet safe for these gamers, it is estimated that California would generate $845 million in additional revenue over the first five years, with an overall boost of $1.91 billion in new economic output and over 2,600 new jobs.
The FOP wants to protect our citizens and the best way to do this is to drive black market online gaming into the light and scrutiny of a regulated system that is safe, fun and fair. Regulation and licensing is the only way to put consumer protections in place. Right now, everyone in California that plays poker online is doing it through unlicensed, overseas websites. They could become the victim of fraud or unwittingly be contributing to an organized criminal operation. States should regulate and control gaming within their own borders.
It is our hope that Congress will heed the advice of the FOP and reject a national ban. Instead, lawmakers should work with the law enforcement community to protect gamers in California and other States that have chosen to license and regulate this activity.
Ed’s Note: Roger Mayberry is the President of the California State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, representing law enforcement officers from every region of the State.