Stop the Bills to Ban Online Gaming

by Lou on June 16, 2006

While major corporations eye ways to profit from the $12 billion a year that’s wagered online, Congress keeps trying to ban it. The House of Representatives is likely to vote soon on legislation that would strike at the heart of our right to play poker on our personal computers, from the privacy of our own homes.

One measure, sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, (R-Va)., seeks to broaden the reach of the 1961 Wire Act, which focused on outlawing sports bookmaking by phone or telegraph. The other bill, by Rep. Jim Leach, (R-IA), prohibits credit-card companies and banks from processing payments by U.S. customers to gambling sites.

Meanwhile, the American Gaming Association urged Congress to determine whether technology has provided a secure and reliable way to legalize, regulate and tax online wagering. This is the model followed by Britain, and their efforts and approach has led to the formation of numerous publicly traded companies on the London Stock Exchange, along with the migration of jobs and tax revenue to their shores.

Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., MGM Mirage and other big publicly traded casino groups see online play as a major opportunity for growth. Just how big is this business now? Estimates point to between four- and seven-million Americans wagering online, and poker is the driving force behind it.

While our representatives scramble to take — or avoid taking — a position on this, even the Los Angeles Times, a newspaper that has historically held an anti-gambling stance has come out in favor of legalizing what is a fact of life for many of us.

A recent LA Times editorial said that in the process of cutting off the money supply for virtual gaming, “. . . the committee also backed a bill that would impose significant new regulatory burdens on financial companies, which would be barred from supporting electronic wagers or payouts.”

The Times went on to ask this question: “Doesn’t the federal government have better things to do than try to block people from going online to make a wager on the Super Bowl or the Final Four?”

They summarized their position by stating, “Legalization also would allow the government to tax the industry and mitigate its hypocrisy in sanctioning some forms of gambling, such as state lotteries, but not others. Moralistic members of Congress should not be allowed to thwart online freedoms. It’s unlikely they will succeed anyway. The issue is whether Washington is to have any leverage over the burgeoning online gambling world, or whether that world will remain beyond the reach of U.S. law.”

Although I frequently find myself at odds with LA Times editorials, I am in complete agreement with this one. And you should be too. To let your Congressional representative know how you feel about this issue, please go to Poker Players Alliance at http://capwiz.com/pokerplayersalliance/dbq/officials/?lvl=C and send an email today.

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