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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Online Gambling Bill Full of Hypocrisy and Holes

- According to the Republican leadership in the House, the "over-friendly" instant messages sent by Rep. Mark Foley to underage pages warranted no action until the cover was blown (no pun intended) by ABC News. But for the millions of Americans who enjoy gambling, of their own free will, their hard-earned money online, the morality police are in full effect. With the GOP racing to pass high-profile, pre-election legislation in an attempt make the country safe from "cut-and-run" Democrats, their leadership in both houses snuck the bill that criminalizes the use of credit cards or other online transactions to fund wagers other than on horse racing into a port security law that passed overwhelmingly, and without debate.

Iowa Republican Jim Leach, the main sponsor of the bill, said that online betting is like injecting drugs without needle marks (but proposed no ban against instant messaging as far as I can tell).

"Internet gambling is not a subject touched upon in the Old or New Testament or the Qur'an. But the pastoral function is one of dealing with families in difficulty, and religious leaders of all denominations and faiths are seeing gambling problems erode family values." [Guardian Unlimited]
Hmmm, I suppose that those family values are immune to horse racing and lotteries.

The ban is assumed to include poker, and a furious commenter on Patrick's blog took issue with his post claiming that job losses in the online poker industry would be nil. And Patrick linked to this article on Motley Fool, which opines: Personally, I don't think poker is all that different from buying stocks.

Inbdeed, an article in Business Week today questions exactly what is and is not being outlawed, pointing to language in a prior bill that ended up on the cutting room floor.
Unlike the version that passed the House earlier this year, the approved legislation does not explicitly outlaw betting on online casino-style games, such as poker and blackjack. The bill does bar financial institutions from accepting "illegal" bets, leaving the question unanswered as to whether some forms of online gambling are permitted. To date, sports betting is one of the only forms of gambling explicitly outlawed in the act. [Business Week]
Whatsmore, those who really want to gamble can fund their accounts in other ways.
Frank Catania, former director of gaming enforcement in New Jersey and president of Catania Consulting Group, calls the law "a sham" that won't stop online betting in the U.S. "There are so many alternate means of payment that it is not going to stop what is happening here," says Catania. "We are going to be spending a lot of money for enforcement, and it is going to be worthless."
"It is putting a Band-Aid on a cancer," says [Arnie Wexler, the founder of the national gambling addiction hotline 888-LASTBET]. "It is not really addressing the issue because [gamblers] have already figured out a way around this particular bill."
And there's a bill in the works from Nevada Rep. Jon Porter that would call for a study of regulating and taxing the industry. Ah, taxing the industry. In the end, the lure of millions if not billions in tax revenues should get the morality police off of our backs as it has in the states that have legalized slots and casinos.


BG said...

Who's furious? I just fear for the friends of mine who landed what they thought was a great job in a burgeoning industry that any rational person would have hoped was on track for consolidation with US-based gaming entities and US regulation, and now they're in limbo.

Before there was a TBA there was a group of like-minded poker bloggers of which I'm a long-time member. Otis from Up for Poker left his job in TV news to work for Poker Stars as their roving reporter, traveling to Europe and the Caribbean and journaling the exploits of the more than 3,000 players (if memory serves) that Poker Stars sent to the World Series of Poker Main Event. His job is one that could be safe at best, possibly scaled back, or done away with entirely. There's also a legion of people associated with televised poker who are likely to lose their jobs, and dealers in Vegas who may find their (hopefully) lucrative efforts dealing to massive WSOP fields for two months gone thanks to what people see as only a cancer and not a true industry.

I think horseplayers can take it for granted that their access to gambling online has been blessed at various state levels, while the same courtesy in another game built on skill wasn't extended to poker. I'm pleased I can still do one thing I love, puzzled that there's some nebulous distinction being drawn to separate another.

Eric B said...

There is hope! It appears that outlawing online gambling violates the US agreements with the WTO. We better get a Democrat in office soon.

You can sign the petition on my site

Anonymous said...

i agree with the legislation which aims to ban credit cards as a payment method for online gambling of any sort... i mean its a no brainer when you consider you are placing somebody else’s money on an uncertain event happening with the aim to recoup more than you invested. Chance and credit do not mix well in my opinion, and continuing to allow it would only contribute further to negatively affecting the high levels of personal debt many citizens today find themselves in. I agree however, in a sense that it won't work - i mean whats the point in banning credit card payments for online poker, for example, but not online sports betting? slightly hipocritical no? I mean how can you allow someone to participate in online horse racing betting, but not have a gamble on a hand of cards? both activities involve a large degree of chance, and neither are guaranteed to yield financial return.
It also infuriates me that the minority of irresponsible gamblers [those paying with someone elses money!] have now ruined the fun of online betting for everyone else - those like me who pay with money they actually have in their bank!! boooo

Anonymous said...

Exactly. The pathetic morality police are trying to take away the freedom to gamble online. What a shame.