Unlawful Internet Gaming Act passes

by Lou on September 30, 2006

Prohibition appears to be back and your personal freedoms are eroding, following the attachment of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act of 2006 to the SAFE Port Act of 2006 — a piece of “must pass” legislation. It passed without a recorded vote and no debate on the issue. A 270 day period for adopting regulations and enforcement procedures following signature by President Bush is in place. You can read the bill for yourself at http://www.rules.house.gov/109_2nd/text/hr4954cr/hr49543_portscr.pdf. The segment related to Internet gaming begins on page 212.

Using credit cards and other payment instruments for what the bill defines as “unlawful Internet gambling” is prohibited, and financial institutions are required to identify and block payments related for unlawful Internet gambling transactions.

The bill provides three exemptions:

1. horse racing under the Interstate Horseracing Act,

2.Indian gambling occurring on a reservation or between two reservations, and

3.Intrastate Internet gambling (within a state’s own borders)

In a statement released by Senator Bill Frist, “Gambling is a serious addiction that undermines the family, dashes dreams, and frays the fabric of society. Congress has grappled with this issue for 10 years, and during that time we’ve watched this shadow industry explode. For me as majority leader, the bottom line is simple: Internet gambling is illegal. Although we can t monitor every online gambler or regulate offshore gambling, we can police the financial institutions that disregard our laws.”

In my opinion, passage of this law is disingenuous at best and blatantly hypocritical at worst. It panders to the moral majority that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist needs to further his own presidential aspirations, while burdening all free people with another sumptuary law we don’t need, and which serves no purpose whatsoever except to deprive us of our freedom to choose how to engage in recreational activities from within our own homes.

This law probably violates US trade treaty obligations and a ruling by the World Trade Organization in the dispute between Antigua and the United States (discussed extensively in this blog in prior months) because it bans foreign remote online gaming while favoring the forms of online gaming exempted by this new law, such as horse racing and online lotteries.

While many other nations are regulating and taxing online gaming, the United States is banning it. What’s really needed is a ban on any laws prohibiting personal conduct that does not harm others. Shame on us.

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