By former Rep. Michael Oxley (R-Ohio)
3/10/2014, 1:00 PM
There has been talk recently about Congress banning all online gaming. This is something that I dealt with as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee years ago, and I want to be clear that it’s the wrong policy for American families.
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 answer to that question is clearly that American families, including children, would be less safe online should Congress pass this ban. 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.
Before serving in Congress, I served our nation in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Based on my experiences, I can tell you that the proposed ban on online gaming would do nothing to stop the billions of dollars flowing through these black-market websites, which are often run by individuals the Justice Department says are engaged in serious criminal activity. Prohibition of that type didn’t work with alcohol, and it won’t work with the Internet today.
In fact, a ban would roll back the only consumer protections that currently exist.
Three states, Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada, have already moved forward and put in place consumer protections that prohibit minors from playing, and ensure the games are fair. Other states are considering it. Congress’s response should not be to roll back these consumer protections in favor of some sort of modern-day prohibition.
These states are using modern age-verification technology to prohibit minors from using gaming websites, and highly sophisticated geo-location technology to precisely determine a potential player’s physical location and thereby prohibit out-of-state gaming in legal and regulated markets. 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.
Congress cannot reverse time or get rid of the Internet. 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.
I know my former colleagues in Congress want to keep American consumers and online activities safe. That’s why I know they’ll choose the right path and reject this misguided ban.
Oxley represented Ohio’s 4th Congressional District from 1981 to 2007 and, as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, he co-authored the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. A former FBI agent, he is currently with BakerHostetler, a national law firm, and is co-chair for the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection.