Science & Technology

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.