The Fraternal Order of Police, which lobbies Congress on behalf of 330,000 law-enforcement officers, sent a letter to leadership of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives last week asking for federal action to create a strong regulatory framework for legal Internet gaming to protect U.S. consumers and provide law enforcement the tools necessary to put offshore sites out of business.
The letter was signed by FOP president Chuck Canterbury and addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
At face value, the letter doesn’t seem that important to the cause of officially legalizing online poker. Nowhere does the letter even specifically mention poker. The FOP seems more interested in shutting down allegedly illegal offshore poker sites still serving the U.S.
However, regardless of if the FOP’s interests exactly align with players, the letter is a valuable chip for the movement.
As Canterbury mentions in the letter, the FOP supported enactment of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006. Now the FOP realizes that millions of Americans want to play online poker, and that if it is not regulated in the U.S., they will just play on offshore sites beyond the reach of the federal government.
"Today, there are no controls on Internet gambling to give U.S. consumers recourse to U.S. courts to provide prompt and accurate payments; no protections are in place to prevent or detect money laundering; no firm and transparent licensing of operators exists; and no regulatory controls are in place to prevent criminals from entering the marketplace, rigging games, or misusing customer financial data," Canterbury wrote. "This has created a situation in which U.S. law enforcement authorities cannot shut down illegal activity, nor is there any way for those victimized by fraud or other criminal acts to seek redress."
For legislation to license and regulate Internet poker to pass through Congress, many policymakers who voted in favor of the UIGEA will need to support sanctioning one of the key forms of online gambling.
No one in politics wants to be called a flip-flopper. By establishing its belief that supporting online gambling regulation is a logical progression from backing the UIGEA, the FOP is setting a key precedent.
It’s also clear from the statement that the FOP has taken notice of the damage done to U.S. consumers by formerly trusted sites, such as Full Tilt Poker, and views it as a reason regulation is needed.
As the largest union of police officers in the country, the FOP has significant influence in both political parties. The Poker Players Alliance was particularly excited to get FOP as an ally.
"The simple truth is the status quo is not working," said PPA executive director John Pappas. "Even our law enforcement officials recognize that regulation is the only way we can protect U.S. consumers and ensure their basic rights are upheld. We are proud to have the FOP join our efforts to ensure a safe and regulated online poker market for all Americans."
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