Senate Judiciary Hearings on Kyl Bill - A Stacked Deck

28 July 1997

Well, it was clear from the July 28 Senate subcommittee hearing on the Kyl bill (prohibition of internet gambling) that any actual dialogue or discussion in our nation's captial on this issue will not be tolerated.

Here's the line-up: a Senator from Nevada; an Attorney General from Wisconsin; a representative from the National Football League; a woman from the National Coalition Against Gambling Expansion and an attorney who represents a number of big name gaming interests in Las Vegas. What might they think of internet gambling???? Let me guess.

As you'll see from an accompanying news release, there wasn't even the inkling of an opportunity for anyone representing interactive gaming nor its consumers to say a word about the bill.

But that didn't stop the Interactive Gaming Council from submitting written testimony on the topic.

Actually, as sideshows go, this one was pretty entertaining. Senator Kyl couldn't be joined by any of the six other Senators on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government Information so he had to go it alone.

He began by announcing some important changes to the bill (we're still waiting to get the text of that revised bill). Probably the most important to you, the potential consumer of online gambling services, is that you've gotten a bit of a reprieve. Now, if you're found guilty of making that friendly wager online, you'll only have to pay a fine of only $2,500 instead of $5,000. And you'll only go to jail for six months instead of a year. But, the Senator, obviously a wagerer himself said he added the term "professional" gambling operations so as not to prevent him from placing a friendly wager with a long-distance pal via email.

Operators of sites found guilty under this federal law, however, will now receive harsher penalties. This was raised from a $10,000 fine to a $20,000 fine and from two years in prison to four years in prison.

The bill has also been changed to allow the US to enter into international treaties with other countries on the issue. Not having seen the new language yet, we can only presume this would be done only with those countries who see things the way the U.S. does.

AG Doyle from Wisconsin's staff was busy surfing the net recently and prepared a little videotape for the hearings . They showed a number of internet gambling sites (including WagerNet which has never taken a wager, BlackJack Time which is a contest as well as a number which are just beta testing right now....but, hey, why quibble!)

The hearing had its lighter moments in spite of the gloom and doom about how bad internet betting is for you and how it can't be regulated so it must be banned! One episode that got a few laughs included Rolling Good Times OnLine. AG Doyle showed the magazine and featured the famous headline of our own Nambling Man from Down Under, Glen Barry. When N.A.A.G. Report is C.R.A.P. showed up on the screen, the standing room crowd got a good laugh (Hey, Glenn, those guys are very senstive about that).

Then the AG proceeded to inform Senator Kyl about the IGN/WSEX pool where, for fun, you can predict the outcome of the Kyl bill passing. Even the Senator was gracious enough to laugh at that one. Later on, Doyle again referenced the Kyl bill pool saying it was a "sucker bet" if people thought it wouldn't pass.

In terms of content, the main message of these folks is that internet gambling can Not be regulated so it must be prohibited. Folks in the industry, of course, beg to differ. They also scoffed at the idea of self-regulation with the gentleman from the NFL calling it the "fox watching the henhouse."

But, historically, many new innovations in the gaming industry have started out with self-regulation. It seems gaming regulators are pretty overburdened and don't always have the time to develop regs for cutting edge products. As new products come online, standards are routinely developed by the industry and handed over to regulators to adapt when the time is right. This is no different.

Those were the highlights. As IGN is able to get its hands on other written documents pertaining to this hearing, it will post them for you to peruse. It's uncertain at this point, when a subcommittee vote will be taken.

In the mean time, it's time for you to get off your duff. Click here to get the Congressional email list and just do it!

UPDATE - IGN also obtained a copy of the Senate Subcommittee testimony from Las Vegas attorney, Tony Cabot, who actually got to speak. Those of you who love the complicated legal arguments which abound about online gambling, take a look at this.