One of the most bizarre news segments in online gaming’s history occurred on Mike Huckabee’s Fox News show over the weekend. Former Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln was the guest. She is the national co-chair of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG), a lobbying group bankrolled by Sheldon Adelson. She served Arkansas until she was defeated in a landslide by Senator John Boozman in 2010.
The interview seems to confuse two different issues; state licensed internet gaming and unlicensed offshore sites.
The goal of Lincoln’s lobbying group is to amend the Wire Act to outlaw forms of online gambling that states are currently permitted to regulate. This includes licensed internet gaming already live in Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey. She uses reasoning that seems to apply only to offshore sites that will operate whether the Restoration of America’s Wire Act bill passes or not.
Some online gaming opponents like to pretend that the Wire Act once pertained to online poker and casino games. There is ample proof that this is not true.
For example, none of the Black Friday defendants were charged with violating the Wire Act. The charges revolved around the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), Illegal Gambling Business Act, and bank fraud. These charges establish that the federal government believes that offshore online gambling sites are illegal, but not under the Wire Act.
A 2011 Department of Justice (DOJ) opinion also states that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting. Michelle Minton of the Competitive Enterprise Institute published a detailed report explaining why that is the case.
Now that we have that established, let’s dive into the nonsense presented on Mike Huckabee’s show.
Segment Introduced With Commercial
The six-minute segment starts with an advertisement produced by CSIG. The propaganda describes a child that has managed to create an account with a parent’s personal information and stolen credit card, which the son maxed out playing online poker while riding the subway alone.
The show cuts away from the ad and moves to the host, Mike Huckabee.
“Online gambling websites are preying on every kid with a smart phone or tablet”, host Mike Huckabee says before introducing his guest, former Senator Blanche Lincoln. That comment was not even close to the most absurd statement made during the segment.
Credit Card Deposit Discussion
“The next thing you know, their parent’s credit cards are all maxed out. They’re in debt, and there is nothing they can legally do to fight it”, claims Mike Huckabee, referring to his hyperbolic intro.
When Huckabee asks Lincoln how big internet gambling is with kids, she exclaims, “It’s huge”.
Lincoln then goes into a story about how a child stole his mother’s credit cards and ran up $20,000 in online gambling debt. Remarkably, no such story appears in a Google search using pertinent key phrases.
The discussion fails to mention that this scenario is impossible. Nor could it, since no opposing view was presented on the “fair and balanced” network.
A regulated site is going to ask the child in this scenario what his parent’s date of birth and Social Security Number are to create an account. If the child happens to know that information, he may be asked questions like “What bank issued your car loan in 2002?” or “What street did you live on in 1997?”. The kid is not going to know the answer to those questions.
Let’s say he does figure all of that out. Regulated gaming sites are not going to allow anyone to deposit $20,000 by credit card during a short time. The max deposit for new players is typically $500. They will likely require a day to pass before authorizing a new charge.
A credit card authorization form is often required before multiple deposits are allowed. The signature must match the back of the scanned card or else it will be rejected. Regardless, a bank that sees back-to-back-to-back transactions like these will probably flag them and contact the customer.
My bank calls me if I fill up two cars with gas on the same day using their card. Surely this same algorithm will flag thousands of dollars of deposits at a poker site within a few days.
Ignoring all of this, parents have the responsibility of raising their kids. They don’t need the help of Congress to tell them that their kids shouldn’t be playing online poker on the subway. Parents need to monitor internet access. Under this theory presented by Lincoln, we need to ban anything a child might get their hands on that is meant for adults because all parents are incompetent.
Organized Crime and Terrorists Involved in Regulated U.S. Market?
“Is there any way to police this, to stop it, to give parents any control so that kids can’t access this stuff?”, Huckabee asks Lincoln.
Lincoln responds by claiming that the industry funds organized crime and terrorists. That may be a hyperbolic reply to why offshore sites should be illegal, but they already are. She seems to be claiming that companies that are licensed in regulated states fund organized crime and terrorism, because those are the sites her organization is trying to legislate out of business. These regulated sites are owned by major Las Vegas and Atlantic City casinos with software provided by companies listed in London, not criminal enterprises. Delaware’s internet gaming is run through the state lottery.
FBI Can’t Police Regulated Online Gaming, Nor Should They
Lincoln admits that the FBI “cannot police it” but in the same point states “they can shut it down”, which apparently is not the same thing as policing it in her mind. Never mind the fact that sites licensed by states don’t need the FBI to police them. Gaming regulators already do that.
Lincoln claims, “They did (shut gaming sites down) when we outlawed it”. She does not expand on what she meant by that. Black Friday was five years after the UIGEA and only removed three of the hundreds of offshore sites from the U.S. market. Attempts to shut down offshore sites have proved to be mostly futile, even after seizures and indictments.
The feds can’t shut down the offshore sites through legislation, only the legal ones run by respected gaming companies and licensed by local jurisdictions that are based on U.S. soil. Guaranteeing the illegal sites a monopoly is one sure way for her lobbying group to get exactly the scenario it claims to oppose.
Lincoln Can’t Read Dates on Letters
“The fact that we have made it legal now…in the middle of the night, days before Christmas” is the next assertion Lincoln makes, referring to the September 20, 2011 Wire Act opinion memo released by the DOJ. She claims that this change was made “days before Christmas” when it was not.
I guess it sounds more dramatic when you misrepresent the date, making it sound like the feds tried to sneak something by during the holiday season instead of presenting the actual date on the letter or looking at its URL, which confirms it was published in September 2011. The CSIG website makes the same inaccurate statement.
The “middle of the night” claim is not substantiated by the DOJ memo as there is no time stamp on it. It is simply more exaggerated nonsense in a segment that Fox News should have been left on the cutting room floor.
Casinos Have Psychiatrists on Duty for Players?
Lincoln then makes one of the most bizarre gaming statements I have ever heard. In an attempt to explain why live casinos are safe, she describes how they have psychiatrists on duty to pluck problem gamblers from the casino floor.
“When they see someone that they know is getting in over their head, they have had too much to drink, they have the ability to come in and actually get that individual pointed in the right direction, which may be out the door for the time being”, Lincoln proclaims.
I have been in the gaming industry for 10 years and had never heard of a casino psychiatrist tracking customer play to find problem gamblers in an attempt to kick them out. A Google search revealed no past or present job openings for such a position.
I reached out to employees at two large Las Vegas gaming companies to see if this position exists at their company. The answer was no.
This also ignores a couple of points. Many casino patrons do not use players cards. The ones that play anonymously cannot be tracked, even if problem gambling specialists are on hand in this hypothetical casino.
Online casinos are able to track all play to a customer. There is no avoiding it. This makes it much easier to identify gambling addicts.
But What About the Jobs?
“And not to mention the jobs that we talk about…the restaurants, the shopping, the shows” Lincoln says, concerned about potential unemployment of casino employees, ignoring the fact that online poker rooms and casinos create tech, management, infrastructure, compliance, and customer service jobs.
Apparently, in Lincoln’s opinion, people don’t go to casinos for any reason other than gambling. They just happen to take in a show or a quick bite to eat in between slot sessions. Not so says the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority as 29 percent of Las Vegas tourists do not gamble at all. Only 15 percent of Las Vegas tourists visited for the sole purpose of gambling.
Caesars told a Pennsylvania Senate Committee that 91 percent of their internet players were new Total Rewards members, having never created an account at one of their live casinos. This also goes against Lincoln’s claim.
Lincoln on Congressional Debate
“It gives Congress time to debate this, that is where it should happen”, Lincoln states. She is referring to the need for Congress to debate online gaming. This is a questionable assertion since there are rumors that her group is trying to find a way to secretly attach their bill to unrelated legislation, just like Bill Frist did in 2006 with the UIGEA.
Congress Members Not Supporting RAWA Should Be Thrown Out, Says Huckabee
“Anybody who doesn’t support this in Congress should be thrown out”, Huckabee announces towards the end of the segment.
The bill is opposed by Democratic Governors Association, National Governors Association, and the National Conference of State Legislatures, as well as many liberty organizations that feel this violates the 10th Amendment. Huckabee feels that anyone that believes in states’ rights should be thrown out of Congress.
No Adelson Mention?
Not mentioning that Sheldon Adelson, the founder and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, is behind CSIG is disingenuous at best. There are recent rumors that Huckabee and Adelson may team up for a 2016 GOP presidential run. That may explain the reasoning behind creating the ridiculous segment that you can watch below.