House Holds Hearing on Safety of Internet Poker
'Feisty Debate' Addresses Concerns About Protecting Consumers
A Tuesday hearing — titled Internet Gaming: Is There a Safe Bet? — in front of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee addressing online poker and Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Texas) bill was a “feisty debate,” according to Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee). Testimony from a number of experts (full list on hearing’s website) tackled some of the concerns levied by members of Congress.
Committee member Barton, referred to as the “best poker player in Congress” by one of his colleagues, hammered home the point that nothing will stop millions of Americans from playing online poker, regardless of whether or not the federal government intervenes.
When the alleged crimes of Full Tilt Poker were mentioned, former New York Sen. Al D’Amato, whose Poker Players Alliance received funds from members of the company, replied, “The way to deal with Full Tilt Poker and people who break the rules is to provide a tough system. This [industry] cries out for regulation.”
An exchange between Parry Aftab, Board of Advisors Chairman for FairPlayUSA, and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Florida) covered some of the concerns about age verification in a licensed and regulated market. Aftab said that the tools are available to prevent adults under 21 from playing on the Internet.
The fear of computerized players in the game was expressed by members of the subcommittee. Kurt Eggert, speaking on behalf of consumer protection, said that there is “no way to prevent guidance from a bot,” and that there are “international competitions now to design the best poker playing bot.” Aftab said that there could be data sharing between web poker providers to help spot cheating patterns.
Eggert referenced the game of chess in his testimony, suggesting that online poker could benefit from a rating system that would allow players to gauge the skill level of their opponent.
Arguably the most passionate testimony was given by D’Amato when he cited the problems with Prohibition early in the 20th century. He said that a similar practice now against online poker will not be effective.
The hearing was closed by Chairwoman Mary Bono Mack (R-California) saying that Congress needs to “consider what is best for American consumers.”
The next step in the process is for those who gave testimony to field questions over the next 10 business days. A followup hearing has not yet been scheduled. Barton’s bill was referred to the subcommittee in late June.
For those who missed the hearing, the video coverage is archived here.
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