The online gambling world, used to hearing good news about record numbers of users and record revenues, is fretting over Bob Goodlatte and his new Internet Gambling Prohibition. Details of the bill are expected to be released this Thursday. The bill is being co-sponsored by fellow Virginia Republicans Rick Boucher and Frank Wolf.
Optimism about passing this bill has been renewed after Frank Abramoff pleased guilty to fraud charges in January. Frank Abramoff has represented gambling interests in the past, and has been a big reason why previous versions of the Internet gambling prohibition bill have never gone through. For those who don't know, this bill has been introduced on an almost yearly basis for a decade, and has never passed.
What will this bill include? First off, it will amend the Wire Act to make clear that the Wire Act includes the Internet. There has always been a grey area here, as the current version of the Wire Act technically doesn't include the Internet, as the original Wire Act was introduced well before the Internet was in existence.
The bill will increase the maximum penalty for violation of the Wire Act from 2 to 5 years. The bill has a clearer definition of what gambling is, prohibits any type of credit card use or electronic transfer for the purpose of gambling, and will provide additional law enforcement tools to combat online gambling. For instance, it will give the government the right to disable access to hypertext links that point to "illegal" gambling operations.
My thoughts on this bill?
First off, I think that they missed their chance to pass this bill. They could have passed this bill back in the late 90's / early 2000's when online gambling wasn't nearly as big as it is now. That's not to say that they can't and won't pass this bill, but it's going to be a lot harder now. Online gambling has gone from obscurity to a favorite national past-time, so they won't be able to just slip this bill in under our noses like they could have five years ago. You know how many actors and other well-known celebrities play poker online now? James Woods has his own poker room. You're going to throw James Woods, Daniel Negreanu and Jesse "The Body" Ventura in jail for violating the Internet gambling prohibition act? How many millions of Americans are "breaking the law" right now by playing poker online?
The thing that always makes me groan about this bill is that the people who sponsor the bill say they are introducing the bill to "protect people from themselves and to help stop facilitate gambling addictions." I always found it odd that the U.S. has a state like Nevada, where gambling is totally legal, but they can try and outlaw Internet gambling in other states. If they truly wanted to help stop gambling addictions, they would outlaw gambling completely, including lotteries, Vegas, and scratch tickets. In the end, it all comes down to money. The US realizes that potential tax revenues are being missed out on, and they want some of the pie. I mean this is a government that collects tax on the sale of cigarettes, and addiction that kills millions per year. If they truly wanted to take the moral highground, they'd ban cigarettes, right?
I pay my taxes. After my taxes are paid, I should be able to do whatever I want with my money, as long as it doesn't harm anyone else. If I want to play a little poker online, the US government shouldn't be able to stop me.
I think that if this bill gains real traction and passes from the house to the Senate, you are going to see a massive outpouring of anger from well-known, notable people. Like I say, I think they misses their opportunity to pass this bill.
Filed Under: Poker Legislation