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Anne Lindner

US College Students Weigh in on I-Gaming Policy

9 April 2003

Last fall, a group of graduate students at Columbia University's School for International Affairs studied the issue of Internet gambling and decided that the practice should be legal and regulated in the United States.

The students are in a public administration program at the school, which is located in New York City. The project in which they studied online gambling was part of a semester-long workshop class that took place from September to November of 2002.

Doug Green, one of the students, was the project's deputy manager. He said his 14-person group embarked on the topic of online gambling because it was one of the projects suggested by their professor, William B. Eimicke. Specifically, they focused on whether HR 3215, a federal bill proposed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., in the U.S. Congress last year, would make for good public policy. Goodlatte's bill would have updated the Interstate Wire Act to make online gambling illegal.

"Initially we were just looking at the broader implications of that -- privacy, free speech, censorship," Green said. "Also, we saw the viability of states and localities turning to gambling as a source of revenue to close the budget deficits that they're always facing, especially these last few years. And that kind of goes along with states' rights and being able to determine your own fate on these kinds of issues."

Green said his group entered the project with no prior opinions about Internet gambling.

"Frankly, no one had a personal preference whether this industry survived or not, so we really came into this thing very objectively and without any preconceived agenda," he said.

While researching the project, Green and his team members made contact with a variety of groups and people on both sides of the issue of Internet gambling, including the Interactive Gaming Council and the Christian Coalition. Green and the rest of the group decided the most practical solution to the legal problems raised by Internet gambling would be to establish a government agency--which they named the Online Gambling Authority--to police the industry and make it safe, fair activity for Americans.

In the group's final report, the students state: "With few exceptions, H.R. 3215 bans Internet gambling outright, ignoring the potential for increased tax revenue and missing an opportunity to educate consumers about the safety and reliability of online gambling establishments that already flourish under the current system. Furthermore, illegality of Internet gambling has not stopped consumers from using these Web sites."

The students' conceptualization of the Online Gambling Authority is that it would pay for its own $5 million annual operating budget by collecting projected annual licensee fees of $17 million.

Green said the group saw legalized online gambling as the most practical solution. If the group had decided to leave the situation status quo, it would have meant a continuation of the "Wild West" era that Internet gambling is in now, in which some of the sites adhere to looser regulations than others, and some adhere to none at all. They also bypassed the prohibition avenue. Green said trying to ban online gambling "runs counter to common sense public policy."

"It was our opinion that in this changed world, government has to realize that there are going to be things that are out of their control, and instead of trying to futilely prohibit what someone would consider a vice with meaningless legislation that is unenforceable, we saw it just as, it's not practical," he said.

To read the group's report, click here.

US College Students Weigh in on I-Gaming Policy is republished from
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner