Mike Oxley C4COP regulated online gaming

Former US Representative Mike Oxley says there’s no turning back on Internet gaming, and that regulation is the answer. (Image: AP/Lawrence Jackson)

Former Republican US Representative Mike Oxley has issued a stern warning that the full-scale banning of online gambling in the US would be the “wrong policy” and misguided, and that it would leave Americans exposed to the potential dangers of using unregulated operators. Oxley – who said he examined the question of online gambling regulation in-depth a few years ago as part of his role as chairman of the House Financial Affairs Committee – was writing in his blog for Washington political newspaper The Hill’s website.

No Going Back in Time, Oxley Says

“Congress cannot reverse time or get rid of the Internet,” said Oxley. “We need to be focused on keeping consumers, businesses, and families safe when engaging in online activities. That means utilizing the best available technology and the best safeguards, not blocking their use… Prohibition … didn’t work with alcohol, and it won’t work with the Internet today.”

Oxley fears that Americans – including children – would be “less safe” should Congress pass such a ban, and calls on the government to adopt a realistic attitude to consumer behavior. Regulation he sees very much as the lesser of two evils because he believes it will enhance user protection.

“The question isn’t whether or not Americans are participating in online gaming. The consumer base is in the millions, and the revenue is in the billions on overseas black markets. The question is whether Congress banning all online gaming would make consumers more or less safe on the Internet…The risk of exposure to identity theft, fraud, even money laundering on an unsafe, unregulated, overseas black-market website is serious. And ignoring that black market, rather than addressing it, will only make us less safe.”

Regulation vs. Criminalization

Oxley had high praise for the newly regulated states: Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada; particularly the technology they had put in place to protect consumers.

“These states are using modern age-verification technology to prohibit minors from using gaming websites, and highly sophisticated geolocation technology to precisely determine a potential player’s physical location and thereby prohibit out-of-state gaming in legal and regulated markets,” wrote Oxley. “These sophisticated technologies have proven successful in existing regulated markets for online gaming and other online commerce. Congress shouldn’t step in and stop their use.”

As a US Representative, Oxley was co-author of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which brought in sweeping new legislation for big businesses in the wake of the Enron scandal. Before entering Congress, he was an FBI agent. He served in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1973 to 1981, and was elected a US representative in 1981. Now retired, he is co-chair for the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection (C4COP), an organization created to counter, primarily, Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson’s virulent attack on Internet gaming in any form. The organization also has the backing of the American Gaming Association – the casino industry’s primary lobbying arm – as well as numerous industry leaders.

Oxley drew on his experiences in the FBI to warn that prohibition would fail to stem the tide of “black market” websites, which, he says, are often run by individuals “the Justice Department says are engaged in serious criminal activity.”