Former U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln Writes Op-Ed Against Online Gambling
It’s been a while since we’ve been fed a solid helping of bullshit from a politician about why online gambling should be banned, so it was refreshing to read an opinion piece from former U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln in Sunday’s Financial Times (paywall). Also refreshing was that Lincoln, who last represented Arkansas on Capitol Hill, is a Democrat, as most of the mind-numbing online poker takes have been from Republicans (though Senator Diane Feinstein says ‘hello’). While Lincoln’s screed hits on many of the usual talking points, she elevates the art form to another level in finding a way to compare online gambling to terrorism.
Before we begin, allow me to remind you that when in the Senate, Lincoln missed an important vote to repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell” by three minutes because she was at a dental appointment. I don’t even like pulling my kids out of elementary school for a dentist appointment.
Lincoln starts out her word vomit by bragging about how she voted for the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006 (UIGEA) and stressing that it was a unanimous Senate vote, not mentioning the fact that it was attached to a must-pass security bill, so nobody really had a choice. She then laments the moment in late 2011 when the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel clarified the Wire Act to say that it only made online sports betting illegal, not all online gambling. Gambling opponents HATED this, believing that the OLC was out of bounds, as it “defied decades of legal precedent and circumvented Congress,” even though all it did was clarify a previous incorrect interpretation of the law.
She then goes on to cite examples of bad behavior by online gambling sites, specifically linking reports of sites marketing their games toward children. This is certainly not a good thing – while I am happy to teach my kids how to play poker, I do not want sites targeting them when it is so easy to be tempted by all sorts of game and websites online.
What Lincoln fails to mention, though, is that these examples are generally exceptions to the rule and regulations – something she opposes – are designed to prevent things like this from happening and if sites don’t comply, they are punished. Companies violate regulations in industries every day and when they are caught, they face the consequences (though these consequences are often not harsh enough), yet we won’t find Lincoln looking to ban other industries.
Lincoln moves on to a couple examples of sites not stopping problem gamblers from playing. Again, this is not good. Gambling can cause problems and sites need to be proactive in both blocking gambling addicts and offering help when possible. But again, we know about these cases because the sites were caught, fined, and had their licenses threatened. Regulation did its job.
But the best part of Lincoln’s missive came at the end and hoo boy, it’s a doozy.
“The FBI’s 2017 Internet Crime Report revealed that the victim count and financial losses suffered as a result of online gambling surpassed that of terrorism-related cybercrimes last year,” Lincoln writes.
Read that again. I did. Blanche Lincoln actually compared online gambling to terrorism. In fact, she said, in so many words, that online gambling is worse than terrorism. What the fuck?
If You Guessed That This Is the Ultimate Spin Job, You’re Right
Fortunately, the Internet Crime Report was linked in the article, so let’s take a look at where Lincoln got her info. The report was published by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and is a compilation of statistics from crimes reported to the agency by the public.
On page 20 of the 26-page report there is a table of all of the crime types reported in 2017, sorted by victim count. There are 33 categories listed, with the number one type of crime – by far – being “Non-Payment/Non-Delivery,” (someone bought something and never received it or someone shipped something and never received payment) with 84,079 victims. Second was “Personal Data Breach” with 30,904 victims and third was “Phishing/Vishing/Smishing/Pharming” with 25,344 victims (I’m actually surprised the number is that low).
Way down at the bottom of the list, in the 31st spot, is “Gambling” with 203 victims. Just after that is “Terrorism,” with 177 victims. Holy shit…she’s right. Gambling is worse than terrorism. Maybe online poker sites should be considered terrorists! Fucking Bin Laden.
Looking at the table that ranks the crime types by money lost by victims, topping the list is “Business E-mail Compromise / E-mail Account Compromise” with an insane $676,151,185 lost. That dwarfs everything else: “Confidence Fraud / Romance” (I chuckled, to be honest) is next with $211,382,989 – that’s a lot of catfishing scams – and “Non-Payment / Non-Delivery” is third with $141,110,441.
Gambling is a little higher on the money list than the victims list, coming in at 29th with $598,853 lost (the 33rd category is “No Lead Value,” which looks like a catch-all for crimes in which no dollar amount was determined). Terrorism is 32nd with $18,926. Gambling is almost 32-times worse than Terrorism. That’s a talking point!
Looking past the obvious that neither Gambling nor Terrorism are much more than a tiny blip on the internet crimes radar, it makes sense that gambling-related internet crimes would net so much more money than would terrorism-related crimes. The whole basis of gambling is money. If a gambler is going to be victimized, it is their money that would be targeted. Nobody calls the FBI hotline if they are the victims of a shitty, boring game of poker in which they are taunted and called a “fish.”
Terrorism, on the other hand, is defined in the report as, “Violent acts intended to create fear that is perpetrated for a religious, political, or ideological goal and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants.”
Seems to me that a) this is not going to involve some online monetary scam and b) I would much rather be the victim of a gambling-related crime than a terrorism-related crime.
The bottom line is that Blanche Lincoln is a disingenuous hack who is unwilling to use logic or reality-tinted glasses when forming an opinion on internet gambling. It should come as no surprise, though, as when Sheldon Adelson formed the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG), he named Lincoln as one of the organization’s national co-chairs and hired her political consulting firm, Lincoln Policy Group to lobby for his Las Vegas Sands Corp. But won’t we think of the children?
Lead photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr