Former Nebraska Attorney General: 'No Place for Online Gambling in US'

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:

  • Former Nebraska Attorney General serves as legal counsel for Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling

  • If Obama Administration had its way all mobile phones would be virtual casinos for minors and problem gamblers

  • State legislators grappling with whether to allow sports betting online


Former Nebraska Attorney General and President of the National Association of Attorneys General, Jon Bruning, wrote an opinion piece on FoxNews.com Tuesday morning blasting the prospects of allowing legalized online gambling throughout the United States.

He's a little late to the party, however, as the industry is already springing up in states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.  A handful of other states are in the process of contemplating the allowance of mobile sports betting.

Bruning, who is counsel to GOP mega donor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, writes that Internet gambling would ultimately transform one's mobile device "into a virtual casino for minors and problem gamblers all over this country".

Bruning blames the previous administration for its “defective opinion which claimed that the Federal Wire Act’s strong prohibitions against online gambling applied only to sports betting”. 

The current administration is looking to revert back to previous opinion that views all forms of Internet gambling, including sports wagering, casino games and card games, as illegal under federal law.  To date, US President Donald Trump has spoken little on the subject, though allies in Congress such as South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham have been pushing for the initiative.  

Bruning writes: “This sharp departure from the department’s decades-long interpretation of the statute — which led a handful of states to unlawfully sanction online gambling — even “stunned” high-ranking Obama appointees.”

He continues: “Particularly important to me as a father, I’m grateful for DOJ’s decision to protect the American children and problem gamblers most prone to what is a “hidden epidemic” in the U.K. Now the center of the online gambling scourge, the U.K. has become the world’s largest regulated online gambling market. Currently, more than half of British 16-year-olds have gambling apps on their phones, while online casinos obtain more than half of their profits from problem gamblers.

“Explosive news reports published around the same time as the DOJ decision help explain how these staggering statistics are possible. Late last fall, The Times of London detailed how, in neighboring Ireland, gambling websites allow kids to "open online accounts without checking their age" as "most companies do not require proof of age to open an account." As a result, "a false date of birth can be put in without a problem.

"Additionally, The Telegraph discovered that some games "can be downloaded by children as young as three on Android smartphones, regardless of parental settings." A study released by London’s Goldsmiths University found that eight in 10 kids remember seeing online gambling ads on television, and the Royal Society for Public Health determined that online betting is a "dangerous new problem" for the next generation. As a reminder, some of the biggest online casinos have been busted preying on — and profiting off of — little kids throughout the years with schemes involving cartoon characters, free candy, and games based on fairytales.

"The tactics online casinos exploit to target addicts, meanwhile, are just as vile. As BBC News reported following January’s decision, “the marketing messages never stopped” for a police officer and problem gambler who “repeatedly asked to be excluded from online gambling sites but found it all too easy to set up new accounts.” And just this month, the Guardian reported details on the case of one website where a game "goaded" an addict to gamble £20,000 by sending him "marketing emails as often as four times in a day."

While legalized sports betting is spreading across the US like wildfire, many state lawmakers remain torn over whether mobile wagering should be permitted.

New Jersey, which this week hosts the first ever Sports Betting America conference, has seen 80% of sports betting revenue come in via the Web.

In states like New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he opposes statewide mobile sports wagering.

Democrats in that state failed to get a measure passed that would have included Web gambling.

Some states look to get around any opposition by requiring that individuals register in person at a nearby casino or racetrack.  New Jersey currently allows anyone nationwide to set up an account online for betting once they are present in the state.  Few out-of-staters will have the time or the motivation to visit a casino to register for an online wagering account.

As for Bruning, he closes with a more ominous tone.

"As is evident from the industry’s lack of concern for kids and addicts — along with its inability to implement sufficient verification systems to protect them — online gambling poses an intrinsic danger to society. Equally as clear amid the industry’s determination to turn every American child’s smartphone into a casino, DOJ’s reversal of the OLC’s warped 2011 Wire Act opinion was needed to again align our government’s position with the history of the statute — as well as to protect the future of those most at risk."

- Chris Costigan, Gambling911.com Publisher


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