Is Congress All Hat and No Cattle?

by Lou on July 24, 2006

Congress has some lofty goals. They want to discourage gambling addiction, prevent young people from the mire of gambling debt, and close the pipeline to off-shore gambling operations.

Although the House passed a ban on Internet gambling by a 317-93 vote last week that would prohibit the use of credit cards or other electronic funds to settle online wagers, and add the Internet to the Wire Act, it won’t accomplish the House of Representatives’ goals. And it shouldn’t. Hey, it’s my money and if I want to use it to play poker, why does Congress think they need another sumptuary law to prohibit it?

It’s election time, that’s why. Congress always comes up with some funny stuff between July 4th and November elections. Some pundits have opined that the best thing for the country would be to lock Congress in a dungeon from Independence Day and Election Day and we’d all be better off for it.

This bill, like the cowboys say, is all hat and no cattle. It passes the buck of regulation to the banking industry by requiring them to keep track of financial transactions but provides no resources for them to accomplish this. It’s an unfunded mandate, and those sorts of things are never popular with the folks dragooned to serve as government’s factotums while given no tools to do the job.

Because online gambling operations reside outside the U.S. this bill is likely to meet with little success. And it’s hypocritical too. After all, while poker is covered by this bill, other forms of Internet wagering, such as horse and dog racing, state lotteries, and some fantasy sports leagues get a pass.

Did the House approve this bill as a way of distancing themselves from the shadow of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who killed similar legislation in 2000? Representative Bob Goodlatte, (R-VA), one of the bill’s sponsors, seemed to think so when he said that passing this bill would “… expunge a smear on this House.”

I’m confused. Wouldn’t passing a stronger ethics bill prohibiting lawmakers and their staffs from accepting pricey junkets be a better way for members of Congress to keep the phantasma of Jack Abramoff at arm’s length? I think so. But then I’m not some angst ridden, symbolism-over-substance elected careerist looking to shovel shit on someone else’s shoes while having the taxpayers shine mine.

I’m just a writer and poker player, not a member of Congress, and I suppose I should know better.

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