Regulatory Tensions

Other Entities’ Attempts at Easing Regulatory Tensions

As the previous Part demonstrates, Internet gambling as it currently exists is in tension with the regulatory scheme established by Colorado’s Limited Gaming Act. This comment is not the first to recognize this tension between state gambling laws and Internet casinos, and this section examines the solutions that have been put forth by other entities. This Part will examine, in turn, the suggestions made by the industry itself, enforcement attempts by other states, and legislation introduced in both the United States House of Representatives and the Senate during the 105 th Congress. Finally, each sub-section will evaluate the potential success of the relevant proposed solution in addressing Colorado’s regulatory concerns.

  1. The Internet Gambling Industry’s Proposal for Self-Regulation

Industry self-regulation is championed by the Interactive Gaming Council (“IGC”). [41] The IGC is part of the Interactive Services Association, a group of over 300 companies who have banded together for the purpose of “promoting and developing consumer interactive services worldwide.” [42] In May 1997, the IGC released a ten-point “Industry Code of Conduct” (“the Code”) at the North American Gaming Regulators conference in Phoenix, Arizona. [43] The Code is applicable to members of the IGC and is otherwise purely voluntary.

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  1. Similarities Between the IGC Code and Colorado’s Limited Gaming Act

Similar to Colorado’s Limited Gaming Act, the Code addresses, in part, the three areas of public confidence that the Act was designed to promote: the legitimacy of the games; the financial stability of the casinos; and the moral integrity of the casinos and their employees. [44]

The Code addresses game legitimacy at various places in its ten points. The Code provides that IGC members shall make their “systems, algorithms, and practices available for inspection and review by any legitimate gaming commission or governmental authority” in any jurisdiction where the member makes its services available to consumers.[45] Each member is also required to “institute controls to detect and eliminate fraud.” [46] Finally, the fourth point of the Code states that members should publish only accurate information regarding their operations and make the payout percentages for their games available to the public. [47]

The casinos’ financial stability is also covered by the Code. Point five of the Code provides that “[IGC] members will retain detailed transaction records which will be archived, accessible and auditable by any legitimate gaming commission or government authority.” [48] Additionally, IGC members are required to conduct any and all financial transactions according to “accepted standards of internationally recognized banking institutions.” [49] Casinos that are members of the IGC are also required to abide by whatever financial transaction reporting provisions enacted by the jurisdictions where they are physically located. [50] Finally, members must “ensure that there is adequate financing available to pay all current obligations and that working capital is adequate to finance ongoing operations.” [51]

The Code also addresses the Limited Gaming Act’s concern with the moral integrity of the casinos, their employees and their patrons. The Code, in point one, requires an IGC member to abide by the laws and regulations of the jurisdiction where it proposes to do business. [52] There is also a provision requiring members to implement procedures to identify and control the spending of compulsive gamblers. [53] And, finally, the Code mandates that members institute procedures to ensure that a patron meets the minimum age requirements that the patron’s jurisdiction has established for engaging in gambling activities. [54]

These then, are the similarities between the IGC Code and Colorado’s Limited Gaming Act. The Code’s provisions are susceptible to interpretations that bring it somewhat in line with Colorado’s gambling regulations. However, as will be shown, there are troubling inconsistencies between the two that make the current iteration of the IGC Code inadequate to the task of applying Colorado’s regulatory framework to Internet gambling.

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  1. Points of Incompatibility Between the IGC Code and Colorado’s Limited Gaming Act

The most material point on which the Code and the Limited Gaming Act diverge is in the area of enforcement. Membership in the IGC is voluntary and currently not required by any government body. [55] Since the Code itself has no sanction provisions, it would appear that the only punishment the IGC could issue for a violation of the Code would be to revoke an Internet casino’s membership in the association. One Internet casino operator and IGC member has suggested that lack of membership in the IGC will be heavily advertised as a warning sign to consumers. [56] However, as of early 1998, this negative advertising is not happening. [57] Thus, the Code does not have the enforcement power that Colorado’s criminal sanctions carry. [58]

Setting aside this major substantive difference between the Code and the Limited Gaming Act, there are also several descriptive differences between these two regulatory schemes. The Code requires only that a member casino operate according to the laws of the jurisdiction where it is physically located and to abide by limitations of other jurisdictions “to the greatest extent technically feasible.” [59] Thus, the Code does not mandate any limits on the types of games offered, [60] nor the amount of money that gamblers can bet. [61]

 

Additionally, since the Code requires member casinos to be licensed only under the laws where the Internet casino is physically located, a member casino may or may not be subjected to strict licensing requirements similar to those under Colorado’s Limited Gaming Act. Finally, the Code’s broad requirements leave the decision of who is eligible for licensing up to a member casino’s home jurisdiction. Thus, if the home jurisdiction has no such licensing standards in place, casinos licensed by that jurisdiction could be operated by persons deemed to be unfit for licensing under the Limited Gaming Act. [62]

None of this is to suggest that the IGC is mistaken in its premise that a non governmental entity can play a role in the regulation of Internet gambling. An independent body establishing guidelines for Internet casinos is part of what this comment argues is Colorado’s best hope of regulating Internet gambling consistent with the policies underlying the Limited Gaming Act.