Show Me the Money
By darren
US lawmakers have proposed to tackle the country’s massive illegal online gambling problem by targeting credit card companies. Meeting on Tuesday the Senate Banking and Finance Committee saw many top lawmakers voice support for a new bill that would block credit card companies from permitting transactions with Internet gambling sites.

Whilst an all out ban on credit card companies in the US allowing such payments has never been successfully voted for the idea itself is nothing new. In fact many credit companies have already volunteered to reject payments with online casinos for various reasons. Whether that be due to pressure from legislators or because they have been stung too often already by I-gaming operators refusing to pay disputed charges.

Lawmakers are trying to tackle the problem of illegal online gambling in the US via the banks and credit companies as the vast majority of online casinos operate outside US territory and therefore law. However the industry, worth roughly $4 billion, gets at least half of its customers from within America.

Many critics of I-gaming site arguments that have dogged the industry since its inception. Operators are accused of everything from money laundering for the Mafia to offering no guarantee of players ever seeing their winnings. Republican Senator Richard Shelby, who chairs the committee, gives his rather black and white opinion: “This legislation represents a measured and appropriate response to a demonstrated social evil that grows worse every day.”

On the other hand there are plenty of reasonable arguments for simply regulating the industry including: better monitoring to catch money laundering; various alternate methods of payment – including simply opening an off-shore credit account; profits made from US gamblers could be going to American online operating companies.

The regulation of I-gaming is such a viable option that a bill introduced in the House last week promises to research how best to implement regulation. The UK, taking the current lead in valid regulation of online gambling, is seen as the prime example of how regulation of the industry can work. Already the UK is attracting major industry leaders ready for a piece of the profit. Giants from MGM to Microsoft are already setting up shop there.

As for controlling I-gaming by targeting methods of payment various alternatives already exist to the persistent gamblers. They always will. What will happen is that as restrictions on payment improve, methods of payment will get harder to stop, identify and control. As for banks policing their own customers’ cash flow – that should worry anyone who still believes in personal liberty.

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