Someday, we may look back on last week's hearing on Internet gambling in the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade as the turning point in the online gambling debate. There have been dozens of hearings on the topic over the last decade, but never has the tone of a hearing been so supportive of regulation.
There were some great moments in the hearing, with both witnesses and members of Congress getting a chance to score points for their side of the issue.
You can watch the entire hearing below, or scroll through the video to find the top-10 quotes from the hearing.
10. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) – 8:10
"If an expansion of online gambling is allowed, those who choose to play should also have confidence that the game they are playing is operated with integrity. Um ... is it bots? Bots. I don't even know that that is. Bots, collusion and other unfair practices must be kept away from any gambling websites created to maintain fairness for players. I thought, ‘Maybe that's bets? Or bots?’ Whatever."
Schakowsky's opening statement was typical in most respects. Members of Congress don't usually write these statements themselves – their staffers do. And Schakowsky's aside to a staffer makes it clear that this isn't an issue that she's looked into in depth.
9. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) – 9:50
"I want to tell the committee, Mr. Chairman, that God must be for this bill, because I got up this morning at 4 o'clock in Ennis, Texas, outside of Dallas, and braved icy roads and 20 degree temperatures to get to DFW airport where my good friends at American Airlines left exactly on time and God put a 200 mile an hour tailwind behind the plane and I got here an hour early, so that tells me that God is for this bill. That's my opinion."
This wasn't the first time God was invoked in this hearing, and as you'll see later in this list, it wasn't the last. Personally, I don't think God gives a damn about Internet poker. But he sure seems to love bingo.
8. Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) – 14:51
(Addressing Rep. Barton)"Joe, under your states rights, I'll have to ask you at some point in time after the hearing if it's all right then if a governor could ban Texas Hold'em and just allow Omaha."
This is obviously a state vs. state joke, but I believe it shows that the chairman of this subcommittee is much more likely to support Barton's bill and move it along, if he thinks it could go somewhere in the full House.
7. Geoff Freeman – 19:10
"The United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Canada, just to name a few, have all considered the serious issues brought before you today, and all have chosen to pursue a regulated market. Consumers are protected, national security concerns are addressed, and economic development is realized."
The new CEO of the American Gaming Association did very well in this hearing, and this was one of many effective statements. Showing that others have taken an approach not taken by the United States can be informative, but it doesn't mean that Congress will act, just to be like every one of these other countries. That entire list of nations also provides universal health care to their citizens, but that hasn't happened in the United States, and isn't likely to happen anytime soon.
6. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) – 59:09
"Mr. Barton, who we all dearly love, got off on a little bit of a tangent when he did his opening statement this morning and said that he thinks God is in favor of his online poker bill because his flight got in early and, you know, he thinks he had angel wings to help get him here, but I would encourage the gentleman from Texas to remember he only need look at the number of his bill, 2666, to remember that the devil is in the details."
Once again, this is meant to be a joke, but is does serve as a reminder that any expansion of regulated gaming in the United States is sure to face opposition from right-wing religious organizations.
5. Rep. Terry – 47:10
"Probably starting at about eight, my kids became pretty savvy shoppers with my credit card online. In fact, it's to the point where just I say, 'You go to the website and do it yourself.'"
I don't have an eight-year-old, but I've got a son that's almost seven. I don't know how much will change in the next year, but I doubt he'll be using my credit card to shop online. He knows how to add items to an Amazon wish list, but he's also smart enough to know that he should never, ever buy anything on his own. And it's going to stay that way. Call me old fashioned, but I'm not planning on giving my kids access to my credit cards.
And if you do, and your kids use them to buy things or gamble online, well then that's on you, not the government. I'm not sure how many people can relate to Rep. Terry, here.
4. Andrew Abboud – 1:23:58
"This is in its infancy, and it is a rush to market as I've said before, because the Wire Act was overturned. That is not the day the Internet became safe. It's not a safe place for a lot of different transactions. And I've said before, this is a play to the youth of America and this is going to become our Joe Camel moment, and if we do not behave responsibly and protect ourselves against what could prey on youth and other people it could very well be the demise of our industry and to go forward would be irresponsible.
The vice president of government relations and community development for the Las Vegas Sands Corp., Andrew Abboud was one of two witnesses on the panel openly hostile to the idea of regulating and licensing online gambling operators in the United States. But there are a million problems with this statement, not the least of which is his continued assertion that the Wire Act was "overturned."
The Wire Act, was, in fact, re-interpreted. And most legal experts I've talked to have said that the Obama administration's Justice Department is in fact now interpreting it correctly. Had the Wire Act been overturned, you'd be able to call in a sports bet to a Las Vegas sportsbook from any state in the nation. You can't do that. Instead, the Justice Department said that the Wire Act applies only to sports betting, and intrastate betting was allowed. The UIGEA, however, still stands, and financial institutions must block all financial transactions with online gambling operators that do not have a license in the state where the player is.
Oh yeah, and Mr. Abboud, last I checked, tobacco companies are still raking in the dough, and you can still smoke Camels. Catering to kids is bad, but you've yet to prove that Internet poker is marketing to children.
3. Kurt Eggert – 45:45
"The law is what the courts and the people enforcing the law say it is to some extent. I think it is a valid interpretation of the law. The DOJ's position, I think, is, you can make a strong argument that it's the correct one. So it isn't the law itself, but it's not a horrible misinterpretation of the law."
Apparently Andrew Abboud wasn't listening to the Chapman University law professor when he said this earlier in the hearing.
2. Rep. Schakowsky – 53:22
"A direct quote from The Ventetian: 'Is there anything you can't do on a smartphone or a tablet nowadays? Mobile casino gaming is available to you on property during your stay, and you can even play from your room.' That's one quote. And the other is they also promote on their website a mobile sports betting app for smartphones, tablets and PCs, and they tout that the app 'Allows you to wager anywhere in Nevada.' Which is not a far cry from anywhere in the United States. So, I just want to say, that, you know, it feels to me, a little hypocritical."
Schakowsky's skewering of the Sands' stance on online gambling could only have been better had Sheldon Adelson himself been sitting in front of Congress. Barton also piled on later in the hearing, and Abboud had little defense for the hypocritical position.
1. John Pappas – 1:30:01
"We're not talking about a theoretical: 'Can this be regulated?' This is being regulated today in three states, and it has been regulated in European jurisdictions for over 10 years. Ten years. This is not in its infancy. This is a mature industry that has dealt with these issues for over a decade and responded to them accordingly."
Game. Set. Match. The executive director of the Poker Players Alliance hit it out of the park with this point, and also explained several times during the hearing that in more than seven months of regulated online poker in Nevada, there hasn't been one instance of a minor depositing money into an online account.
Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd has covered the gambling industry since 2006. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi. Follow him on Twitter @CasinoCity_AT.