Tomorrow I testify yet again on online gambling. I spend my time protecting consumers, seniors, families, parents and kids online. I identify risks and seek solutions to those risks.
The industry and media are often surprised that I have taken a position that is not, on its face, consistent with my straight-laced positions on cybercrime and abuse. I support the legalization of certain online gambling. Sticking our heads in the sand pretending it doesn't exist, that people aren't being scammed because no one can look out for them or police whether minors can access these sites and apps, is dangerous.
The only way to effectively outlaw and stop cyberscams, fraud and gambling abuses is to license and regulate trustworthy industry members in developing online gambling avenues that manage the risks caused by unregulated online gambling.
The risks range from addictive/problem gambling, to minors gambling, to seniors being scammed by sketchy unregulated online gambling sites, to unpaid winnings, financial credential crimes, identity theft, money laundering and malicious code/malware/hacking. Ironically, these risks are more easily managed online than in brick and mortar situations.
WiredSafety, the US charity I founded and run, commissioned an important review of international practices and experiences conducted by Malcolm Sparrow from the Kennedy School at Harvard. This was presented to the Congressional Committee charged with the review of laws impacting online gambling. Both Malcolm and I testified before the Democratic-Chaired Committee. (I had testified previously before the same Committee when controlled by the Republicans.) The paper can be accessed at wiredsafety.org (https://www.wiredsafety.org/pdf/Can_Internet_Gambling_Be_Effectively_Regulated_Managing_the_Risks%20Final.pdf)
Powerful voices agreed with my opinion and Malcolm's paper - Louis Freeh (former Director of the FBI) and Governor Tom Ridge (the first head of Homeland Security) joined me on the board of the non-profit FreePlay, also convinced that the only way to be effective in managing the risks and preventing abuses was to legalize and then heavily regulate online gambling.
Once legalized and regulated, our work begins - educating parents, assisting seniors, helping make online gambling less accessible to problem/addictive gamblers and making sure that experienced digital security, privacy and best practices professionals help build safer, more private and more secure networks and enforcement processes.
That's what I will tell the legislators tomorrow.