Utah Republican warns of kids gambling online

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is warning against online gambling sites, especially those aimed at children.

In a new report from Newsweek, Chaffetz repeated his calls for congressional action to protect children and others from measures to legalize online gambling being debated — or already passed — in state legislatures.

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“I am afraid that if we don’t move quickly and get some decent regulations in place, which we really don’t have right now, it will be too late to stop it from reaching all the states,” he said.

According to the report, Chaffetz is especially worried about “slots for tots,” or free online gambling sites that feature characters aimed at children.

“Many parents already can see how easy it is for a kid to get addicted to a video game that does not involve money,” he said. “You put them on the Internet and they are gambling with money, now you have a real problem.”

In March, Chaffetz — along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who was in a heated primary race — introduced a bill to reverse a 2011 decision from the Department of Justice (DOJ) that opened the door for states to legalize online gambling.

Chaffetz has repeatedly criticized that decision.

“The way this all unfolded and the parties involved, I think it raises a big question mark,” he told Newsweek. “We can’t have an office in the bowels of the DOJ going against decades of legal precedent without Congress having any say.”

Their bill — backed by GOP mega donor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson — would affect the states that are considering and have already passed bills to legalize online gambling  within their borders.

Supporters and opponents of the bill both claim they are on the correct side of states’ rights.

During a March press conference where Chaffetz and Graham unveiled the bill, Chaffetz cited Utah’s sweeping ban on gambling.

“Our state right is we don’t want to have online gambling,” he said.

Online gambling activists point to technology that aims to keep online gambling out of the hands of minors and nearby residents of other states, and they say each state should decide for itself.

But Chaffetz told Newsweek that he isn’t so confident in the technology.

“In the physical world of brick-and-mortar casinos, it’s easy to see a 13-year-old on a casino floor,” he said. “On the Internet, there are no physical barriers, nothing stopping a child from becoming an addict.”