Rep. Bachus and the Intertrons

I just received the transcript to my testimony before Congress earlier this month on Internet gambling.

I thought you might enjoy one of the odder exchanges I had at the hearing. The exchange was with Rep. Spence Bachus, and I guess this was supposed to be his "gotcha" question for me. To be honest, I was so floored by the sheer ignorance of the question, I didn't quite know how to respond. To set up the exchange, one of the points of contention during the hearing was the reliability of age verification systems. Enjoy.

Mr. Bachus: Mr. Balko, in your testimony, you sort of—you talked about one of the brands you singled out for praise was FullTilt Poker?

Mr. Balko: Well, that was one of the—it's one of the more reputable poker...

Mr. Bachus: One of the more reputable firms. Have you looked at their website?

Mr. Balko: Yes, I have.

Mr. Bachus: Did you read—you now, they have the biographies of some of the players, and you've seen those haven't you?

Mr. Balko: I'm familiar with several of the biographies of the top poker players, yes.

Mr. Bachus: Are you familiar with Ross Boatman's biography on their website?

Mr. Balko: No, I'm not.

Mr. Bachus: Let me tell you about him. [Reading from bio.] Ross was 10 years old when he played poker for the first time. His brother Barney, who is a little older than Ross, was playing with some friends, and after much pleading, they let him sit in.

His gambling career really didn't get started until a couple of years later, though, when he was 12 years old. Ross was too young and didn't have the money to play with those guys—I guess they're talking about his 14-year-old brother—but they let him sit and watch, and he learned plenty.

[Bachus, now looking at me.] I guess the verification system didn't work.

Mr. Balko [flummoxed]: I believe that all took place well before the age of Internet gambling, Congressman.

Mr. Bachus: Okay. Was it? I wonder why it's still on the site today.

This really astonishingly dumb. Either Bachus is posturing and intentionally misleading people who don't know the difference between a guy who played poker with his brother 30 years ago and a website that lets kids gamble online (which in itself is appalling) or he himself doesn't know the difference. Which is even scarier.

Note:  Anything in brackets above was added by me, and not part of the actual record.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Mr. Balko [flummoxed]:

    Flummoxed? Do they actually put descriptive stuff like that in transcripts? That's actually pretty cool thing for a congressional transciber drone to do.

  • highnumber||

    I believe the bracketed comments are Balko's.
    For example:

    [Bachus, now looking at me.]

  • Leave him alone||

    He's an old man!

  • VM||

    "flummoxed" is a great word.

    "[...] Bachus is posturing and intentionally misleading people..."

    EXACTLY!

  • ||

    Ah, Spencer, I'm just so proud he's my congresscritter.

    It's not like I have much of a choice . . . no one's run against him the last few elections.

    / no one who could beat him, that is.

  • ||

    Mr. Bachus: Okay. Was it? I wonder why it's still on the site today.

    Bachus's words here seem to betray a more fundamental confusion--between "the past" and "today."

  • ||

    It's a series of tubes, you see...

  • robc||

    fulltiltpoker.net/com were registered on Aug 20, 2002. Assuming Boatman was the first player on at age 10, he would be all of 15 years old now.

  • ||

    A Congressman "posturing and intentionally misleading people?"

    Impoceros!

  • Thomas Paine\'s Goiter||

    Bachus's words here seem to betray a more fundamental confusion--between "the past" and "today."

    That's my take as well.

  • ||

    It's things like this that makes me so happy we have a powerful federal government.

  • ||

    The appropriate response would've been to look at the camera and say, "Huh? Are these real questions?"

  • ||

    *wow grammar issues*

  • Thomas Paine\'s Goiter||

    [Bachus, now looking at me.] I guess the verification system didn't work.

    "Of course not. Age verification systems didn't exist in 1974. Neither did online gambling. Come to think of it, neither did the internet."

  • Dave W.||

    I think the guy's point is that the person who will be helping implement the age verification system doesn't seem to have any moral compunctions about 14 year olds playing poker for money. This, in turn, suggests that the guy in charge would not be vigilant enough with the age verification system at the margins.

    Personally, I disagree with the point the Congressmen was trying to make for several reasons, but my go back and do it over answer would be:

    "This really highlights one of the great things about Internet gambling. With modern age verification systems in place, we can help parents identify at-risk children like Barney Boatman and make sure they get the help they need. That is a huge improvement on the situation 30 years ago."

    Then a different guy would have been flummoxed.

  • ||

    What better example of the idiots in charge of the country. You didn't even have to read 98 pages to go wtf is he talking about. He managed to get a wtf in only a few sentences. Bravo!!

    No one can beat this guy in an election?

  • ||

    Or to have peered at him with squinty eyes, then lean back and say, "I fucking loved you on Gilligan's Island!"

  • ||

    Mr. Balko,
    I commend you sir for showing the restraint that none of us would have been able to show, given the irresistible circumstances.

  • It\'s for the children||

    I gotchur age-verification system right hier.

  • ||

    Bachus falls falt on his face and looks like a chump, and in the absence of actual evidence to the contrary, the stupid point he was trying to make about age verification not always working is obliterated.

  • ||

    Reinmoose,

    Restraints? Are you seriously suggesting that Mr. Balko should've assaulted and tied up a sitting Congressman? That's a gutsy call, sir.

  • ||

    Either Bachus is posturing and intentionally misleading people who don't know the difference between a guy who played poker with his brother 30 years ago and a website that lets kids gamble online (which in itself is appalling) or he himself doesn't know the difference.

    Or, he just chose a really confusing and clumsy way to illustrate his point. It's doubtful that Bachus really thinks that the web as we know it today was around in the 70's, and it's also doubtful that he thinks he can mislead anybody into thinking that.

    What that point is, I'm not sure. He appears to be referring to the fact that a "reputable" poker site would brag about getting kids hooked on gambling while at the same time promoting an age verification system. I guess.

  • ||

    Dan T.,

    My experience is that somewhere around 75% of the questions asked at these hearings aren't questions at all. They are opportunities for legislators to posture, pout, and preen like cheap tarts on a red-light street.

  • ||

    Goiter wrote, "Of course not. Age verification systems didn't exist in 1974. Neither did online gambling. Come to think of it, neither did the internet."

    Not with that name, certainly, but the (D)ARPANET already had several dozen nodes by 1974, big enough that its founding agency was looking for someone to take over the administration. Who knows what games the propeller-heads were playing on the paleo-net? There definitely wasn't any kind of age-verification system, though. :-)

  • ||

    Pro Lib -

    Perhaps you misread my statement, or perhaps it would have been clearer if I'd said "self-restraint."

    Are you seriously suggesting that Mr. Balko should've assaulted and tied up a sitting Congressman?

    No. I'm commending him for not doing so (metaphorically), as I would have been tempted to do.

  • Meyer||

    Most of these hearings are a humiliating kick in the crotch, so you may be onto something there, Pro Lib.

  • ||

    Reinmoose,

    Sorry, my humor is becoming ever vaguer and surreal.

  • ||

    What that point is, I'm not sure. He appears to be referring to the fact that a "reputable" poker site would brag about getting kids hooked on gambling while at the same time promoting an age verification system. I guess.

    Or it could be a founder touting his love of a game he's played with friends since he was kid. Kids do gamble without any sinister outside influence. Even something like flipping baseball cards was gambling.

    I don't know about you, but I was paying cards for money (mostly spare change)around that age. Come to think of it, we were playing the weekly football slips(pick five games for a dollar, win 25) when we were freshmen in high school.

  • VM||

    *tweet. foul on Meyer. Two shots and possession. Inappropriate reference to "Synchronicity"*

    The sentence also includes having to laugh at Mighty Brontosaurus's stories after he finishes the lesson for us.

  • ||

    He appears to be referring to the fact that a "reputable" poker site would brag about getting kids hooked on gambling while at the same time promoting an age verification system. I guess.

    Gimme a break. I taught myself to play poker at about age 9, after watching the scene in "How the West Was Won" in which Debbie Reynolds' character teaches her children how to play poker in order to take her mind off the dangerous job her husband has gone off to do. I wasn't very good at it, and the stakes around Stately Seamus Manor were pretty low, but if I'd stuck with the game, I might have become good enough that I could play on Full Tilt Poker, and asshats like Rep. Bachus could point at me and say, "How awful; that poor child hooked on gambling at age 9!"

    It's doubtful that Bachus really thinks that the web as we know it today was around in the 70's, and it's also doubtful that he thinks he can mislead anybody into thinking that.

    It's doubtful that Bachus really thinks about the implications of the "gotcha" questions he asks at hearings.

  • ||

    ...the fact that a "reputable" poker site would brag about getting kids hooked on gambling while at the same time promoting an age verification system.

    Where do you discern the "fact" that FullTilt Poker has or would "brag about getting kids hooked on gambling..."? Perhaps, Dan T., there is a job opening on Rrp. Bachus' staff for you. You'd fit right in.

  • ||

    VM,

    It was "Synchronicity II", and I started it. That was a good album--wish I could afford to go see The Police on their only possible tour ever again. Though I doubt Sting will be performing in his Feyd-Rautha gear this time around. Which is fine by me.

  • Thomas Paine\'s Goiter||

    I think the guy's point is that the person who will be helping implement the age verification system doesn't seem to have any moral compunctions about 14 year olds playing poker for money.

    Paid spokespeople will be implementing the age verification system?

    So does this mean that Tiger Woods will be detailing my Buick before I buy it? Oh wow - do Jerome Bettis and Bert Reynolds brew the Miller Lite?

  • Thomas Paine\'s Goiter||


    Not with that name, certainly, but the (D)ARPANET already had several dozen nodes by 1974, big enough that its founding agency was looking for someone to take over the administration. Who knows what games the propeller-heads were playing on the paleo-net?


    Stop being a nit. I fucking hate nits.

  • ||

    My experience is that somewhere around 75% of the questions asked at these hearings aren't questions at all. They are opportunities for legislators to posture, pout, and preen like cheap tarts on a red-light street.

    and thank you for reminding us!

  • ||

    My dad taught me how to play poker and blackjack at about age 9 while my mom was away. Can't say I was that good at poker at the time, but I'm reigning champion of my poker group now and have a 4 game win streak.

    *hears knock on door*
    police barge in house in SWAT gear, shoot me in the leg, and handcuff me on the ground. I'm held at my dad's trial, where he is convicted of endangering the welfare of a child, and Mitt Romney won't pardon him

  • ||

    I wish [flummoxed] had said [laughing his ass off]. I also wish Balko's subsequent comment had ended with ", dumbass!" instead of "Congressman."

    Oh well, next time, eh?

  • theOneState||

    Or, he just chose a really confusing and clumsy way to illustrate his point.

    Sounds more like a gotcha question handed to him by his staff. He sounds genuinely confused about it, and he clearly hadn't read the biography in context (if at all).

    I don't think the average congressanoids has much knowledge of the relevant material in most hearings. They get briefed by their staff. Staff reports are usually very thin with prominent bullets and lots of white space. And these days very large print.

    I wish those staffers would stop caring so much about their future employment in Washington and instead just start fucking with their representatives.

  • VM||

    yeah - know the song was that (jeez. first Doktor T. noticing the oxymoron on "Big Capillary" and now this. Just not my day!) but needed the album to bring up the mighty brontosaurus.

    But where did you throw out the first ref? Missed it! *blushes*

  • ||

    VM,

    See my 10:28 posting.

  • VM||

    Brilliant. *Meyer* is hereby elevated to "nearly Doktor T. Status for brilliance"!

    Nice pickup. Fantastic!

    *kicks self in taint. prepares for self taint chomping.

  • ||

    Staff reports are usually very thin with prominent bullets and lots of white space. And these days very large print.

    And, I would imagine, largely monosyllabic.

  • Meyer||

    I have my moments.

  • ||

    "He appears to be referring to the fact that a "reputable" poker site would brag about getting kids hooked on gambling while at the same time promoting an age verification system."

    Age verification has two entirely different goals in this context. For the Congressiopaths, it means protecting the precious little children from the depredations of sinful games of chance. For the operators of internet gaming sites, it means being able to collect from the players (if your minor child uses your credit card on the internet, you can, I believe, quite properly refuse to pay). Which one is more likely to be a compelling incentive?

  • ||

    His name is SpencER Bachus, I think. I searched for Spence in wikipedia and couldn't find anything. :)

  • ||

    I can't speak for Congressional staff, but I have prepared a presentation for a senior-level administration personage who shall remain nameless. My work product involved sixteen-point type and very little black ink on the paper. To be fair, I think that I may have been dumbing down the presentation for the audience rather than for the presenter (incidentally, one of the "audience" was a former VP who joe has an unnatural affinity for ☺).

  • ||

    For the Congressiopaths, it means protecting the precious little children from the depredations of sinful games of chance.

    Talk about poisoning the well! No way could any government policy that restricts gambling be based on the centuries of collective wisdom that indicate that gambling on the whole is bad for a society.

    Seriously, do you guys really think that the government spends all this time and money simply to prevent people from having a good time?

  • ||

    Seriously, do you guys really think that the government spends all this time and money simply to prevent people from having a good time?

    Not all of it's time, just way too goddam much of it's time.

  • Urkobold™||

    No way could any government policy that restricts gambling be based on the centuries of collective wisdom that indicate that gambling on the whole is bad for a society.



    GAMBLING IS BAD FOR SOCIETY. YOU MEAN GAMBLING LIKE STATE LOTTERIES?

    THE URKOBOLD IS SO CONFUSED.

  • ||

    And money.

  • ||

    But J sub, if the government truly had nefarious motives wouldn't they prefer as many citizens as possible wasting their time and money on pursuits like gambling?

    Gambling certainly falls under "bread and circus", with the added benefit of being addictive.

  • ||

    Seriously, do you guys really think that the government spends all this time and money simply to prevent people from having a good time?

    Do you think that it's really to save the small percentage of problem gamblers from ruining their families?

  • ||

    GAMBLING IS BAD FOR SOCIETY. YOU MEAN GAMBLING LIKE STATE LOTTERIES?

    And horse racing.

    And Catholic Bingo.

    And charity raffles.

    And dog racing.

    Etc.

  • ||

    But J sub, if the government truly had nefarious motives wouldn't they prefer as many citizens as possible wasting their time and money on pursuits like gambling?

    I see an awful lot of ads for the Michigan State Lottery. Maybe they just don't like competition. For a related subject see state liquor stores.

  • ||

    Dan T.

    You truly are a dumb fuck. There. That said...

    It's not about the gambling, as they allow it in so many places (poker at dog tracks, the dog races themselves, bingo, lotteries, jai-alai, and so many other forms). So, how is it that these forms of gambling are not "bad for society", as you put it, and internet gambling is??

    Explain.

  • Urkobold™||

    JIMMYDAGEEK, URKOBOLD'S MOST ARTISTIC MINION, THE URKOBOLD WILL DEIGN TO OFFER AN EXPLANATION THIS ONCE, PENALTY FREE: IT'S HARD, IF NOT IMPOSSIBLE, TO TAX INTERNET GAMBLING.

    ZOD WILL LOWER TAXES TO ZERO. TRIBUTE, ON THE OTHER HAND, WILL BE INCREASED TO 100%.

  • ||

    Count me in as someone who hates state-run lotteries.

  • ||

    BINGO URKOBOLD! (pun intended)

    You do not happen to post on RonFez.net as Fat_Sunny do you? Your posts are eerily similar in style...

  • highnumber||

    IOW, Dan T., you think all gambling should be illegal, yes?

  • ||

    I have to disagree with Urkobold™ here. Dan T. argues from the point that by allowing people to gamble from their homes, more people are likely to become problem gamblers. This is one of the points that Dan T. seems consistent on, so I am willing to believe he actually believes this one. I disagree with him because it's like saying "if we outlawed drinking in the home, there would be fewer alcoholics." People will always find a way to participate in their vices. See Prohibition, Wo(s)D.

  • ||

    Dan,

    Assuming that you're serious on this topic, why is a person gambling an amount he can afford to lose for amusement "bad for society"?

  • Urkobold™||

    IT IS TRUE, THE URKOBOLD HAS MANY ADMIRERS AND MANY IMITATORS. BUT THERE IS, BY DEFINITION, ONLY ONE URKOBOLD. THIS BLESSED OFFENDER OF ALL THINGS DECENT, THIS ÜBER TROLL, THIS SCHADENFREUDER, THIS URKOBOLD.

    NICK M.,

    IF ONLY FOOLISH STATEMENTS WERE TAXED! THEN YOUR STATE WOULD BUILD A GIANT STATUE OF YOU WITH ITS MASSIVE SURPLUS.

  • ||

    Assuming that you're serious on this topic, why is a person gambling an amount he can afford to lose for amusement "bad for society"?

    Yeah, because if he spends that same money taking his family to go see Pirates of the Caribbean III, he's 100% likely to lose that money and with no pleasure gained.

    But seriously, David, it's not about the person you're talking about. It's about nobody being allowed to do it because some people can't control themselves. Apparently we all must sacrifice for the lack of self-control of a few.

  • ||

    Mr. Bachus: Okay. Was it? I wonder why it's still on the site today.

    Shudov Sed: That's what a {finger quotes}"Bi-og-ra-phy" is congressman. It's a personal history, an historical account of a particular person. {finger quotes}"His-tor-y" congressman, is by definition something that happened in the past. There are a number of reasons to keep a history. For instance, you might want to keep a history of when you take your meds.

  • ||

    Dan T.
    I am still awaiting your response about the "fact" that FullTilt Poker has or would "brag about getting kids hooked on gambling..."?
    Maybe it's like the "facts" about second hand smoke and the "facts" about child abuse, spousal abuse etc. bandied about by a lazy irresponsible MSM.

  • ||

    Gambling is an immoral vice and there's plenty of historical evidence that shows it's a detriment to society.

    (repeat as necessary)

  • Fluffy||

    Dan, what centuries of collective wisdom would those be?

    The illegality of gambling is of extremely recent vintage. Gambling has been present in and accepted in nearly every society. The Roman soldiers gambled for Christ's cloak, after all. Gambling was one of the primary leisure activities of the European aristocracy for centuries.

    Gambling's illegality is the "collective wisdom" of a handful of Puritan a-holes who quite literally DID sit around thinking of ways to prevent people from having a good time.

    And by the way, I think people are overlooking the obvious explanation for why Bachus was confused - he thought that the text quoted was decribing a teenage user of the site, and didn't realize that it was talking about the childhood experience of someone who is now much older. It was pretty stupid of him to think that, but it's pretty obvious that's what he thought. Not that someone who gambled as a child might sabotage the age verification software or anything like that.

  • ||

    Dan,

    Assuming that you're serious on this topic, why is a person gambling an amount he can afford to lose for amusement "bad for society"?


    It's not, and if gambling only led to people losing trival amounts of money then I doubt anybody would care.

  • ||

    IOW, Dan T., you think all gambling should be illegal, yes?

    That I don't know. I'm not a big fan of making things completely illegal, but at the same time I think that the problems caused by gambling will increase the more we make it legal and thus socially acceptable.

    I guess I'd be in favor of keeping commercialized gambling limited but I'm not so strict about it that I'd want to prohibit a group of friends from getting together for a night of poker or playing an NCAA tourny pool.

  • ||

    Dan T.
    I am still awaiting your response about the "fact" that FullTilt Poker has or would "brag about getting kids hooked on gambling..."?
    Maybe it's like the "facts" about second hand smoke and the "facts" about child abuse, spousal abuse etc. bandied about by a lazy irresponsible MSM.


    Let's keep my remark in context - I was just speculating on what Rep. Bachus was talking about regarding the poker site. I'm not really claiming that it's a fact that sites do this.

  • ||

    Dan T. - The state lies out and out about their lottery scratch off tickets. The come up with all sorts of catchy names for games Triple 7's, Magic Cash etc etc. Then they advertise them as having up to 20 chances to win on each ticket. This is a BLATANT lie and misleading sales pitch because when you turn any of those tickets over the odds of winning are usually around 1 in 4.86. Thus no matter if they say you have a million ways/chances to win with a certain ticket lotto game the fact is only 1 in 4.86 is going to win, period!

    To me this is false advertising plain and simple but hey its state sponsored so its all good.

    Newsflash anyone wanting to piss away their money is going to do it laws or not get over it. We should not be told HOW we will be ALLOWED to gamble legally that makes no sense what so ever expect that it ensures certain groups are the only ones to profit from such gambling, at which point its just fine to piss away your families income on a game of chance.

    Before La. legalized video poker they went around and rounded up all the illegal back room vid poker games. Games the police knew were there all along and some even played themselves. Then when the politicians wanted to legalize video poker they arrested all the illegal operators just to make sure they had convictions against them which would prohibit them from being legit video poker vendors with state licensing.

    The politicians than bought into the video poker operations themselves and legalized it state wide.

    They were kind enough to try and let all the people rounded up off easily but my friends father (how I know all this) is an old coonass and refused to think they had anything on him in court. They offered him 6 months probation and $5000 fine. He refused and went to court trial only to receive 3 years at club fed and a $50000 fine. He was stupid for not taking the plea after over 12+ years of making tax free money on the side but as I said he was a hardheaded old man.

    My question is where in the hell is Bill Bennett on this issue certainly a high roller like him could get behind this initiative. Maybe he could actually be successful on this one unlike all the other things he has failed at.

  • ||

    Let's keep my remark in context

    OK In context - "What that point is, I'm not sure. He appears to be referring to the fact that a "reputable" poker site would brag about getting kids hooked on gambling while at the same time promoting an age verification system. I guess."

    You posted FACT not WHAT HE BELIEVES IS A FACT. If that is what you intended, please be more careful with your language in the future. In advance, thank you for your cooperation.

  • ||

    I was under 13 when I placed my first bet at a race track. My older cousin had to place the bet at the counter for me. Under age betting is hardly a new event or created by websites. I only brought 5 bucks with me and lost it all. That soured me on gambling. It's like any potential vice. Teaching moderation under supervision at a young age prevents problems latter on, while an unsupervised minor in any setting can get into trouble.

  • ||

    Teaching moderation under supervision at a young age prevents problems latter on, while an unsupervised minor in any setting can get into trouble.

    Especially a male minor.
    Don't tell the thought police I said that.

  • John Rhoads||

    How is the success of age verification systems under the current system (online poker illegal in US) relevant to a discussion of whether or not online poker should be legalized. If age verification systems are failing right now, then clearly the problem that the feds are claiming to solve by not allowing legal online poker is a problem anyway. I guess he could be arguing that government regulation will only make the problem worse, but that seems like an odd argument for a politician to make.

  • Plumb Bob||

    The real problem is that internet gambling clogs the tubes.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement