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Hill Op-Ed Could Hurt Efforts towards Gambling Regulation

The HillAn anti-gambling op-ed published in The Hill uses flawed data to call for Congressional action to prevent millions of children becoming gambling addicts.

Last Saturday, The Hill – a respected and widely-read political newspaper – published an op-ed entitled “Internet Gambling Addiction is a Looming Crisis” in which the author called on Congress to act quickly in order to eliminate the surging specter of 24/7 sports gambling that threatens to turn millions of children into gambling addicts following the repeal of PASPA.

Usually, op-eds such as these are not considered to be a threat to further gambling legislation due to the fact that 24/7 sports gambling existed before the repeal of PASPA; and, if children were going to become gambling addicts, there are already plenty of opportunities for them to do so regardless of whether individual states choose to regulate gambling or not.

However, what is different about this op-ed is its author – John Warren Kindt. Kindt is a Professor of Business and Legal Policy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and serves as the senior editor of the United States International Gambling Report. According to Kindt´s Wikipedia page, his research and publications contributed to the enactment of UIGEA in 2006.

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No Wonder UIGEA Passed with Research like This

In the op-ed, Kindt discusses a letter sent last month by Wisconsin Representative Jim Sensenbrenner to U.S. Deputy Attorney Rod Rothstein, in which Sensenbrenner claims that, without federal intervention, the regulation of gambling will result in the exploitation on the Internet by terrorists in order to obtain funds, launder money, and engage in identity theft and other cybercrimes. However, rather than link to the letter itself (which is widely available on the Internet), Kindt links to a report of the letter published by an online casino affiliate that promotes offshore, unregulated gambling sites.

Then, turning to the subject of underage Internet gambling, Kindt discusses the case of 19-year-old student Meng-Ju Wu, who in 2003 killed three people after losing more than $72,000 of his parent´s money. To support his argument that Internet gambling is currently the fastest growing addiction amongst children (bearing in mind this happened in 2003), Kindt links to a YouTube video of ESPN´s coverage of the story, which clearly shows the bets were placed over the telephone and not over the Internet at all. The lack of credible research doesn´t stop there.

To warn against what can happen when regulated gambling is allowed to (allegedly) get out of control, Kindt points to the results of a 2018 survey by the UK´s Gambling Commission, which were incorrectly reported as showing a 400% increase in addiction rates among underage gamblers. An analysis of the survey´s results by a law student writing for PokerNewsReport showed the percentage of underage gamblers classified as “problems gamblers” or “at risk gamblers” actually decreased when an apples-for-apples comparison was conducted.

Finally, to demonstrate his support for federal intervention, Kindt refers readers back to a 1999 report by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission which he was heavily involved in compiling. What´s interesting about this reference is that the 1999 report acknowledges the federal government is unable to regulate Internet gambling and calls for its total prohibition. This would imply Kindt´s motives are not aimed at protecting children from the perils of gambling addiction, but to stop Internet gambling nationally – but that´s hardly a surprised considering the following:

Why the Op-Ed Could Hurt Efforts towards Gambling Regulation

Although Kindt has often testified against Internet gambling at state and federal committee hearings – and even used the phrase “click your mouse, lose your house” – he has managed to isolate himself from Sheldon Adelson and Adelson´s commercially-motivated Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. Furthermore, despite his research being frequently discredited, Kindt is still regarded as an authority on gambling and continues to get column inches in publications such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The Hill.

Passing legislation to regulate online gambling won´t create millions of underage gambling addicts overnight; but, all the time Kindt´s views are being aired in mainstream and respected publications, they are being read by the people who shape gambling regulation. If the people in a position of power believe what they read (and there´s no reason to think they wouldn´t), Kindt´s opinions could hurt efforts towards gambling regulation if they are taken at face value.

As a footnote, naturally I support the inclusion of measures to protect vulnerable gamblers in future gambling legislation, but not at the cost of prohibiting Internet gambling in its entirety.

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