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July 21, 2006

Great Article on current Gambling Legislation

A Ban on Internet Gambling Is A Ban On Freedom
By Dan Burns

The recent actions of the U.S. House of Representatives have convinced me that 317 of our congressmen need a refresher course in civics.

Mr. and Mrs. American politician, your first job as legislators is to protect the rights of American citizens. Your second job is to make laws that help run the country. Once again, protection of rights comes first, all other business comes second.

The problem — as illustrated by the House passing HR-4411 on July 10 by a vote of 317 to 93 — is the typical American politician considers safety, social order and many other factors to be more important than their constituents’ civil liberties. Our liberty has declined in status from the supreme ideal this nation was founded on to something that is now a secondary consideration.

HR-4411, known as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act, aims to block American citizens’ access to certain online gambling Web sites. Access to online poker rooms and casinos would be restricted, and those sites would be unable to receive payments from U.S. banks and credit card companies. Online wagering on horse races, fantasy sports and certain state-run lotteries would not be affected.

The bill is sponsored by Congressmen Robert Goodlatte, R-Virginia, and Jim Leach, R-Iowa. They claim Internet betting can be so addictive that people can lose their life savings making wagers online. They also claim it is too easy for minors to make bets on the Internet.

Those points are well-taken and should be considered by parents everywhere, but they’re not sufficient evidence to ban online casinos.

You don’t ban something 99 percent of people enjoy because 1 percent of the people who use it have a problem with it. That’s not democracy, is it? Prohibition of alcohol didn’t work. Burning books didn’t work. Banning online gambling is not going to work.

And are we to believe all of the bad things legislators point out about online gambling – the addiction, the handful of people who allegedly launder money through online casinos, etc. – don’t apply to online horse wagering? Most of the people I know who make bets on horse races online (which they will never get a chance to even see, by the way) are more compulsive than the dozens of people I know who like to play a little $2/$4 hold’em before they go to bed.

This idea of legislating morality has got to stop. Americans might look to the government to protect them from foreign invaders, but they certainly don’t need the government to protect them from themselves. What we do in our own home, with our own money, in our own free time is our business and nobody else’s.

When I was learning the ins and outs of America’s two-party system in high school, I learned the Republican Party advocated a “hands off” approach to governance and was in favor of small government. What has happened to them? Now they feel they have to pass laws protecting us from ourselves and deciding how we can spend our money.

If you want to protect me, please begin by protecting my civil liberties. Once you’re sure they are secure, then by all means, legislate away.

As you might have guessed by now, I’m an avid Internet poker player. I am one of thousands of American residents who treat online poker as a part-time job. Any attempt to ban online poker would rob me and my colleagues of something our founding fathers called an “unalienable right” endowed by our creator, which is the pursuit of happiness. Indeed, the financial plans of many young Americans rely on their access to online poker in the next few decades.

I know some of you might be saying, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Your financial goals rely on poker?” Well, they do.

Imagine being a talented rock musician whose band is about to make it big when your government decides to outlaw rock music. Rock music gets people too excited, the government reasons. Studies have shown many violent crimes occur right after rock concerts, and teenagers who take drugs like to listen to rock music while they’re getting high. Some people, including men and women with families, spend hundreds of dollars a month on rock concerts and albums, they say. That’s money that could be spent on productive things.

This fictional government makes a good case. I guess we should outlaw rock music. No fame and fortune for you.

There is a negative side to every creature, commodity and concept in the world. It’s very easy to make a convincing case to ban anything if you choose to focus on the horror stories. Things such as guns and alcohol, for example, destroy thousands of lives more than online gambling every year, yet they remain perfectly legal.

Banning online gambling is not the answer to solving the problems that arise from it, but neither is leaving things the way they are.

The United States should pass legislation legalizing online gambling, but requiring operators to set up an office within the country. Then regulate the industry and force the owners to pay taxes, taxes, taxes and more taxes. Tax the hell out of them. They’ll pay it, because legal status and an image of legitimacy will be good for business.

This issue is in the Senate’s hands now. Senators everywhere, particularly my senators, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, I encourage you to speak out against this bill on the Senate floor. My congressman Mike Ferguson, R-NJ, did not agree with me, but I’m hoping you will.

If you decide to vote in favor of the Senate’s version of HR-4411, then please do me one favor. Attach an amendment to the bill calling for the discontinuation of “the land of the free” as one of our country’s mottos, because that phrase would no longer be applicable.

Dan Burns is the co-founder of Satellitewinner.com, a website dedicated to strategy for Poker Satellites He can be reached at Dan@satellitewinner.com.

Posted by fatbill at July 21, 2006 02:51 PM


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