Don't ban online gambling, former member tells Congress

A former member of Congress is warning current members not to cave in to current pressures to ban online gambling.

"Congress should tread extremely carefully before it even thinks about banning lawful activity on the Internet," former-Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.) wrote in a Roll Call op-ed this week.

Bono — who was Chairwoman of the House Commerce Subcommittee on Trade and a member of the Subcommittee on Technology — encouraged current members of Congress to push back against requests "for a sweeping ban on Internet gaming."

On such request comes from GOP donor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who earlier this year launched a coalition to fight state and federal attempts to explicitly legalize online gambling. The group is also pushing Congress to rewrite the Wire Act to prohibit online gambling, which would reverse a Justice Department decision from 2011, which interpreted the statute to allow online gambling.

"Whether you gamble or not — and whether you participate in Internet games or not — it is clear that the prohibition of Internet gaming is a bad idea for Americans," Bono wrote.

In the op-ed, Bono said a decision by Congress to ban online gambling would infringe on individual and state rights, would eliminate a path forward for consumer protections and "would put Congress in the position of banning technological innovations the public has already widely embraced."

American consumers are already gambling online, and a Congressional ban would drive that activity to the black market, which lacks protections for consumers and creates money laundering opportunities for criminals, she said.

"There is no question whether Americans are gaming online. More than a million are," she wrote. "Instead of trying to put the Internet back in a bottle, and ignoring technological and consumer demand, Congress should be focused on making it safe for all Americans."

Bono also pointed to the revenue opportunities that could come from legalized online gambling.

"A congressional ban would prevent regulated Internet gaming programs from generating millions in revenue for local priorities such as schools, transportation or public health," she wrote.

"It’s no surprise that states including California, Pennsylvania and New York are considering their own programs for responsible and regulated Internet gaming."