The US House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade held its second informational hearing for internet gambling issues on November 18. The hearing dealt generally with the threshold question of whether the federal government should regulate gambling on the internet. Questions about the mechanics of a federal regulatory system were given only cursory explanation. The comparative strengths and weaknesses of H.R. 2366 and H.R. 1174 were also given only cursory explanation, but it is beginning to appear that H.R. 2366 is the only bill that will move.
Video replay of the entire 2-hour hearing is available on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Youtube channel.
Highlights are found at the following minute marks:
2:35 Rep. Bono Mack, subcommittee chair, gives her opening remarks.
8:00 Rep. Butterfield, ranking member of the subcommittee, gives his opening remarks.
12:43 Rep. Barton, chair emeritus of the Commerce and Energy Committee and chief sponsor of H.R. 2366, reads his opening remarks.
“The bill that I have introduced builds on the work that Mr. Frank and Mr. Campbell have already done.”
“I want to point out that the bill that we’re hoping to markup in this subcommittee deals only with internet poker. It does not deal with generic gaming or gambling. It is just internet poker, and as everyone knows, poker is a game of skill.”
18:15 Rep. Frank, chief sponsor of H.R. 1174 gives his opening remarks.
“Once we decide to do this, there are specific legislative details—and I think in a bipartisan way we can work them out. I will say Mr. Barton, Mr. Campbell, and I have already had some meetings, and we think it’s possible we can come to agreement on a lot of these specifics.”
“I hope this committee will go ahead with the basic principle, and then I look forward to our working on the specifics.”
24:34 Rep. Wolf read his opening remarks.
30:17 Rep. Campbell, sponsor of H.R. 1174 gives his opening remarks.
35:49 Rep. Barton, recognized for five minutes.
“Mr. Wolf, in your comments you repeatedly say “gambling.” You never once said “poker.” I mean, you do recognize that poker is a game of skill I presume?”
Rep. Wolf’s response (37:02): “I’m not here to tell you that internet poker is wrong. That’s not my ability. What I’m here to say is that if you put internet gambling in college dorms, people will literally in a few short minutes be bankrupt and broken… I think internet gambling will bring about suicide and problems.”
39:53 Rep. Butterfield recognized for five minutes.
To Rep Frank: “Please discuss the broader scope of your bill and why you think allowing bets and wagers on activities other than poker is the preferred approach.”
Rep. Frank‘s response “I don’t think we should ban poker or anything else that’s voluntary and doesn’t hurt anybody else, including gambling. Now, [H.R. 1174] does have a prohibition on sports betting; frankly that is a practical fact. I was pushing this bill in the committee I chaired and we couldn’t get it through over the objections of mostly the National Football League. And I will report to you that the National Football League believes that if we were to allow internet gambling, people might start betting on football games… At any rate I accepted that reality. But yes, beyond that, our bill does say ‘adults should be able to do on the internet what they prefer to do,’ and I don’t see any reason for banning gambling. There is a narrower issue on poker, but I’m for getting as much freedom as I can for people as long as they’re not hurting others. If all we could get would be poker I would be all for it. I am for the broader issue because I do not think that we should be restricting people’s freedom to do other things.
48:17 Mark Lipparelli, Chairman of Nevada Gaming Control Board, gives his opening statement.
53:50 Charles McIntyre, Executive Director of New Hampshire Lottery Commission, gives his opening statement.
58:42 Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., President and CEO of American Gaming Association, gives his opening statement.
“We support federal legislation that will allow states and other appropriate authorities to license and regulate online poker, while also insuring that each state, such as New Hampshire, has the right to determine whether such activity should be permissible by the residents of their state.
We believe the best approach to making that happen is to modernize and strengthen the Wire Act of 1961 with conforming amendments to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act to unambiguously outlaw and hopefully eliminate illegal internet gambling.
The AGA asks that any gaming legislative proposal establish federal guidelines so there are consistent regulations for online poker in all jurisdiction that choose to have it.
1:04:22 Dr. Rachel A. Volberg, Senior Research Scientist of NORC at the University of Chicago, gives her opening statement.
1:24:30 Rep. Barton asks Liparelli: “Would online poker hurt or help brick and mortar casinos?”
Liparelli’s response: “I think it’s been our experience that if there is an impact it’s already reflected in operations. Clearly there’s a lot of online gaming happening now. It’s exploded in the last seven years. So if there has been a direct impact, it’s probably already being felt. I think the industry participants that we talk to frequently see an opportunity there, but they see it as a compliment, rather than something that would impact their businesses directly.