Online gambling has quietly enjoyed a contentious debate behind-the-scenes on Capitol Hill, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) trying to come through for the casino interests in his home state and push through an Internet poker bill.
Today one of his Democratic colleagues said online gambling could have serious implications for national security.
Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said his hearing on the issue this morning “could not have come at a better time.”
Rockefeller noted the Justice Department memo a year a half ago reversing course on its interpretation of federal law restricting gambling over interstate wires, ruling that only applied to sports betting.
“Since then, states have been racing to set up online gambling sites. It’s easy to see why. Millions – if not eventually billions – of dollars in potential state revenue are at stake. But there is also reason for concern,” the chairman said. “When gambling is accessible from any device connected to the Internet, how do we make sure that our children aren’t the ones gambling? How do we protect those with gambling disorders from doing further harm to themselves and to their families? The costs are not only financial. They could have serious implications for families around the country.”
Rockefeller said the expansion of online gambling “could also affect our national security.”
“Expanded Internet gambling may make it easier for criminals and terrorists to launder money. We have already seen examples of money laundering and terrorist financing through online gambling operations in other countries,” he said. “These risks alone demand that we take a hard look at how expanded online gambling potentially affects our country’s law enforcement and national security.”
The chairman added that state laws have “served consumers and law enforcement relatively well when it comes to traditional brick-and-mortar casino gambling.”
“But the Internet does not recognize borders or state jurisdictions,” Rockefeller said. “We must consider the consequences of allowing a risky and often addictive form of entertainment to be available on such a ubiquitous platform. And, in turn, Congress must ask whether something as innately porous as Internet gambling can be divvied up by state lines and still be effectively regulated.”