US State Legislators Meet in Boston to Discuss I-gaming

6 June 2006

Examination and regulation of Internet gambling seem to be the main messages that came out of a hearing Friday at the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) annual summer meeting in Boston.

The NCLGS, which advocates states' rights, has opposed Internet gambling, saying it interferes with states' abilities to regulate gaming within the borders, but President Sen. Steven Geller, D-Fla., said during the meeting that emerging technology and other issues have led the organization to consider re-establishing its position on Internet gambling.

The group heard from four panels, beginning with an overview of current Internet gambling-related legislation and activity in Washington presented by Jonathan Slade of the Cormac Group, who is also NCLGS's Washington counsel.

Judy Patterson, Senior Vice President & Executive Director of the American Gaming Association (AGA), which represents the land-based casino and entertainment industry in the U.S., came up next to discuss the industry and legal perspectives of Internet gaming. Although the AGA opposes online gambling, it recently conducted a survey of online gamblers which found that four percent of Americans use the Internet to gamble, and in April it called on Congress to study the effect of online gambling.

Patterson was joined on the panel by Mark Hichar, a partner at Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge, LLP in Rhode Island. Hichar serves as primary counsel to GTECH Corporation in connection with its bids to provide online lottery hardware, software and services in competitive procurements by state lottery authorities in Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon,
Texas and Wisconsin. He has negotiated contracts with those state lottery authorities upon
selection of GTECH as preferred bidder.

Attendees also heard from proponents of I-gaming, including Sue Schneider, immediate past chair of the Interactive Gaming Council; Walter Szrek, senior technical consultant at gaming technologies company Szrek2Solutions; and LonniePowell and Scott Solomon, vice
president of public affairs and general counsel, respectively, for U.S.-based betting company

Reportedly, though, NCLGS members were particularly wowed by pointed testimony from Bill White, CEO Global Cyber LLC, a company that has developed a patented system to regulate Internet gambling.

White said the protocol would establish the geolocation of a gambler and deny access to online gaming if necessary, enable taxation of Internet gambling, help prevent problem gambling, and provide transparency for regulators.

"What's wrong with Internet gambling is the absence of regulation," White said. "What's wrong is you legislators and regulators can't get control of Internet gambling."

Testifying against the legalization of Internet gambling, Amy Blume Hunter, legislative liaison and administrator for the Communications and Legal Division of the Washington State Gaming Commission, said her state is putting together a multi-state task force that includes three federal agencies to look at enforcement and investigation, public awareness campaigns-- including public service announcements by the Washington attorney general saying I-gaming is not legal-- and federal and state legislation.

Washington state recently passed a law criminalizing online gambling, making it punishable by a $10,000 fine and/or up to five years in prison.

Looking back, Schneider said that the NCLGS seemed to be open to exploring other successful regulatory tools that would make their primary concerns about age and geolocation as foolproof as possible.

"There seemed to be interest in looking at this from the standpoint of state lotteries, racing and, to a certain extent and where applicable, casino," she added.

NCLGS will accept testimony on Internet gambling through Sept. 1, and Geller said the organization could possibly adopt a revised policy during its winter meeting in early 2007.

Related Links
National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) 2006 Summer Meeting

Emily Swoboda is the senior staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in St. Louis, Mo.