McKinney: Online gambling not a winning bet
Fairfield state Sen. John McKinney, the Senate minority leader, disagrees with the governor over the inevitability of online gambling in Connecticut.
McKinney, R-28, said Wednesday state and federal laws currently prohibit it and he will push for tougher, felony-level penalties in the upcoming legislative session.
During a news conference, McKinney said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy seems to have misinterpreted a recent ruling from the federal Justice Department that limited its scope to online gambling within certain states that already have legal gaming.
"Unfortunately, since that decision was issued, there has been widespread misinformation and misrepresentation on the issue of Internet and online gambling and sadly much of that misinformation has come from the governor's office and Gov. Malloy himself," McKinney said. "It does not matter whether another state says it's legal here, it is not legal over the Internet in Connecticut."
Roy Occhiogrosso, the governor's senior adviser, said online gambling will be coming to the state, one way or another.
Last month, Malloy said that as states including New Jersey plan to initiate online wagering, it would mean that Connecticut gamblers could join in immediately.
But McKinney, who like Malloy is a lawyer, said state and federal laws prohibit it. He quoted a deputy U.S. attorney's opinion confirming that Internet gambling is illegal, but warned that the General Assembly could change the state law.
"Connecticut law already prohibits Internet gambling," McKinney said, quoting state law barring any electronic means of transmitting gambling information, punishable with misdemeanor penalties.
Online gambling, including poker, with offshore sites mostly based on the Caribbean island of Antigua, remain plainly illegal, he said, stressing if the laws are enforced, they will avoid the state.
"Unfortunately, the initial sound bite was the Justice Department allows Internet gambling under the Wire Act," McKinney said. "This is limited only to Internet gambling within a state, which means you have to run the gambling site within the state and you have to live within the state and the state has to already allow gambling."
There is a 2006 federal law that prohibits banks and credit-card companies from allowing online transactions for purposes of gambling.
"The technology is easy and they've developed it, to prevent someone from using your credit card or your bank account in Connecticut to gamble online with an Internet site," McKinney said.
And if Malloy tries to reopen the compact with the two Indian casinos to allow them to conduct online gambling, the result would be a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause. Strengthening penalties in the state would discourage online betting in Connecticut and send gamblers to the casinos.
McKinney said online gambling could tempt vulnerable teenagers and bring in even less tax revenue than online shopping.
"We absolutely know, without equivocation, that the result will be that there will be teenagers engaged in online gambling," McKinney said. "By prohibiting it, we actually end up protecting the two casinos we have in-state."
Occhiogrosso said the Republican leader is spending a lot of time going after Malloy.
"Another day, another press conference by Sen. McKinney to criticize the governor. It's pretty much all he does," Occhiogrosso said in a statement. "The Justice Department decision makes clear that online gaming will eventually reach Connecticut. Gov. Malloy is concerned about protecting jobs and revenue that are tied to the gaming industry, and looks forward to having a public dialogue on the issue in the coming weeks and months."