As you may have heard, Congress has taken a big step toward banning most online gambling.
Instead of trying to outlaw gambling sites, which would be impossible to do since almost all are outside of the US, they are trying to make processing or handling payments illegal. The result, gamblers would not be able to use credit cards, debit cards, or even make direct transfers from US bank accounts to fund their accounts.
Supporters of the ban claim the Internet’s widespread availability makes it too easy to gamble and creates betting addictions and financial problems.
Internet gambling sites are estimated to take in $12 billion annually. Half of this $12 billion comes from gamblers in the US. Critics of this proposed law argued that regulating the industry and collecting taxes would be more effective than outlawing it. Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol. It won’t work for gambling.
The government had an opportunity to regulate online gambling and take advantage of the tax revenue. A recent study estimates Internet poker alone, if regulated and taxed, could net the federal government $3.3 billion each year.
But instead they’ve turned the financial institutions into the police. They also propose to increase the maximum penalty for violations from two to five years in prison.
The two Republican representatives who sponsored the bill, abctoto Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Jim Leach of Iowa managed to slip in exemptions for the horse racing industry and state lotteries. Not really fair to allow online lotteries and Internet betting on horse racing while cracking down on other kinds of sports betting, casino games and card games like poker.
In many countries the government has chosen to regulate online gambling rather than ban it. It’s a lot more practical and besides, it is a form of recreation for many people.
Fortunately there are still some thinking congressmen in Washington who have doubts about the bill’s effectiveness and have gone so far as to call it a feel-good piece of legislation. A bill more about news-making than lawmaking.
A more effective approach would be to allow the industry to come to the United States and regulate it. This is a situation everyone who is or has gambled online will want to keep an eye on.