Gov Jindal: Internet Gambling a Bad Bet for American Middle Class

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Editor’s note: This is a guest column provided to Daily Report by the Office of Governor Bobby Jindal.

For good reasons, Democrats and Republicans alike are concerned with growing income inequality. Because for middle class Americans, prices continue to outpace take-home pay and the stagnant national economy continues to produce anemic job growth.

While the two parties tend to disagree on how to address income inequality, there is one issue that could become a flashpoint in the debate, and bring them together for more constructive dialogue: Internet gambling.

A powerful pressure campaign out of Washington led by special interests is leading the push to make casino gambling available 24/7 on cellphones and computers, with three states already authorizing it. Recently, a study noted that ten additional states including Louisiana are considering bills to legalize or expand Internet gambling this year. We must not follow suit.

I promised when I ran for Governor that I would not expand gambling in Louisiana. I believe that putting a casino in the pocket of practically every American will exploit society’s most vulnerable, threatening to saddle the poor and disadvantaged with spiraling debt. It is a bad idea at a bad time, and putting a stop to it should be supported by both Republicans and Democrats.

 The American people, and the people of Louisiana have been left out of this important debate. That is because the gambling companies and Wall Street investors who have invested in operating and running Internet gambling sites know that the vast majority of Americans believe Internet gambling is a bad idea. Rather, those who want to bring casinos into America’s living rooms say “trust us, it’s safe for kids,” and that the “technology can thwart criminals and money launderers.” I don’t trust them, and neither should the people of Louisiana.

There is a big difference between having to go to a casino and having a casino come to you. Americans know that betting on an iPhone or a computer or on an iPad is fundamentally different, and much more dangerous than going to a casino where trained staff can prevent kids from playing. It is impossible to implement a responsible gambling protocol in an Internet gambling environment.

It also opens the doors to criminal organizations that can use it to move money and fund their activities. The American law enforcement community knows the dangers that come with Internet gambling. According to the FBI, Internet gambling is often used for fraud and money laundering. The FBI also states the supposed safeguards in place to protect minors from participating, along with other anti-fraud measures, are easily defeated by criminals.

It is impossible for law enforcement to stop an older sibling or friend from handing a smart phone to a minor. Even if there were strong technology in place to protect minors, as Internet gambling spreads, young people will likely devise new ways to defeat the safety measures.

As a father of three I can assure you that parents have enough to worry about in today’s society. Keeping a watchful eye over what our children are looking at on the internet, who they are chatting with on Facebook, and who they are receiving pictures from on Snapchat is difficult enough. The last thing we need is our kids being able to obtain easy access to a dangerous new way to cause financial hardship, along with developing a potentially dangerous habit.

The Justice Department was wrong when it issued its opinion in 2011 reversing its long-held position that the Wire Act bans Internet gambling. This decision paved the way for states today to begin allowing Internet gambling.

I will do everything I can to stop Internet gambling from spreading to Louisiana. But, because of the ease in setting up gambling accounts on a mobile device and laptop, if enough states make the poor decision to allow Internet gambling, it will be nearly impossible to stop in states that do not allow it. That is why I urge our leaders in Washington D.C. to restore the original interpretation of the Wire Act and ban Internet gambling. Internet gambling is a bad bet that we cannot afford to make.

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