A group called the Poker Players Alliance is criticizing Iowa Congressman Jim Leach’s attempt to curb Internet gambling. Leach, a Republican from Iowa City, is co-sponsor of a bill that would prevent gamblers from using credit cards to wager on-line. The bill has cleared the U.S. House and awaits action in the Senate.
“Internet gambling has exploded in size and it looks like it may double again in the next two or three years unless restraints are placed on it,” Leach says. But Mike Howland of Des Moines, a member of the Poker Players Alliance, says it would be better to regulate the Internet gambling industry rather than try to crack-down on companies that are the conduits for Internet wagering.
“The concept of prohibiting something that the government already claims to be illegal just seems nonsensical considering that tens of millions of players in America already play the game,” Howland says. Howland goes on-line about once-a-day to play poker. “I’m 36 years old. I’m a retired lawyer. I decided to give up my practice to become a stay-at-home father,” Howland says. “While I’m staying at home, sometimes I like to pass the time by playing poker.”
Howland calls himself a “break even player” who goes on-line to find a poker game for recreation. “If you go to a casino, the lowest stakes you are going to see are $3, $6 stakes and upwards of, you know, $10, $20, you can even find in some of the bigger casinos $50, $100, $200-blind games,” Howland says. “When you play on the Internet, you can throw $20 on the site and play penny to penny. It allows recreational players to play at absolutely low levels.”
Howland says if Leach and others want to prohibit underage and problem gamblers from playing poker on-line, then they should make the industry legal and regulate it. “If we allow Internet gambling to be housed within the United States, all of a sudden they’re subject to United States law. Now we can enforce the companies to do more about underage gambling. We can enforce the companies to do more about people that have problem gambling,” Howland says. “We can also do more to protect the people (who) play on those sites.”
Howland says with no U.S. consumer protection laws governing the overseas companies that operating Internet gambling sites, there’s no recourse when a website bilks a player out of their winnings. Leach held a hearing on Internet gambling yesterday afternoon in Cedar Rapids.