Poker Words - A Poker Blog

Mostly a recount of my poker exploits along with a bunch of random other stuff just for fun.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Making Online Gambling Illegal

If you read any news related poker site you have probably seen a few articles recently about attempts to bad online gambling. There is currently a bill in congress aimed at clarifying the Wire Act to include gambling online. Washington State also recently created a law making it a felony to gamble online. The fact that there hasn’t been more mainstream criticism of these events is somewhat disappointing. I don’t claim to be expert on current or proposed US laws, but none the less, I would like to offer some counter arguments to what I think are the more popular reasons for attempting to ban online gambling. My focus of course will be on Poker, but I think it will be applicable to gambling in general.

Poker/Gambling is for degenerate lowlifes.

I think a common misconception amongst non players is that poker is still some game played only by thugs in some seedy back room, or by outlaws in some old western type saloon with six-shooters in hand and aces up their sleeves. The kind of game that inevitably ends up in a barroom brawl at best, and at worst a old school shoot-out.

Despite the fact that you can’t turn on a TV anymore without seeing a poker game, people still don’t see that it has become an honest and legitimate game. One that takes more than pure luck and hidden cards but a large amount skill and mental prowess to be successful.

Since people still think of it at as an activity only cheats and criminals participate in they have no problem with trying to outlaw it.

Online Gambling Sites Might be Dishonest/ People Could Get Ripped Off.

One of the most common reasons that I’ve heard for outlawing online gambling is that the sites running the casino or poker room or whatever might be dishonest and they could be ripping off their customers.

I have two responses for this. First, that can happen in almost any online enterprise. It’s not hard to put up a website with a bunch of merchandise, take a bunch of orders then close up shop. There are a million online scams out there, so why don’t we ban internet usage as a whole just to be safe?

I don’t think it’s in the sites best interest to cheat their customers. They’re making millions of dollars just for hosting their games. Why risk losing your customers base by cheating them? Plus the reputable sites are audited, which brings me to my next point.

If you make online gambling legal, you can regulate it to insure fairness. You can also tax it. I don’t understand why politicians haven’t locked onto this concept yet. There is a multi-billion dollar industry out there, that I’m pretty sure would be happy to pay a percentage to Uncle Sam in exchange for being recognized as a legitimate enterprise, and the increased customer base that goes with it. Brick and Mortar casinos are regulated. I think the general perception is that they are legit. Why is playing a game from your living room at an independently audited site any different that playing a video slot machine at some casino in Vegas? They both run the same algorithm.

Online Gambling can be Used by Terrorists and/or the Mob to Launder Money

I’ve seen this brought up in as a reason to ban online gambling a number of times. The first time I read it, I thought it was all over. Game, Set, Match. Once you equate online gambling to terrorists and the mob, there’s no way any politician can vote against their prohibition. Not unless they plan on taking an early retirement. Who’s going to re-elect some pro terrorist gambleholic?

This claim itself is absurd. It’s the last desperate attempt of a debater who’s failed to defend his argument. When all else fails site terrorism. Or the mob. Or even both. It’s the ultimate trump card.

To the best of my knowledge, no one has been able to prove that online casinos are used for laundering money. That doesn’t mean they’re not, but they also still wouldn’t be the first thing criminals have used to hide their income. I’m pretty sure that terrorist organizations were using phony charities, or maybe even diverting funds from legitimate charities to fund their activities. I haven’t heard of any rush to start banning charitable organizations. And again this goes back to the regulation issue. Legalize it, regulate it, and monitor it, and you create an environment that is less appealing to criminals.

We need to protect gamblers from themselves.

Yet another favorite argument from the anti gambling movement. Some people can’t control themselves and they’ll lose more money than they can afford to lose. We have to protect them from themselves.

At some point I think an adult living in this free country should be allowed to make decisions for themselves, without first having to run it by their government to see if it’s a good idea.

What if I decide that flipping houses is the way to make my fortune? What if I invest more than I can afford in a property because I think I can turn it around for a huge profit. What if things don’t go as I planned and I lose everything? Should that have been illegal? Is there some authority I should check with before making any sort of monetary decision? Should I call my congressman before I make my next stock purchase, just to make sure I’m not being overly risky?

Yes, some people have addictive personalities, and don’t know when to stop gambling, and yes, having the ability to gamble at their fingertips might be too much temptation for them, but that doesn’t mean the rest of society should have their freedoms restricted, just because some people can’t handle it. At some point people need to take responsibility for their own actions. Alcohol isn’t illegal even though there are alcoholics, Cigarettes aren’t illegal despite their addictive and deadly qualities, Gambling shouldn’t be illegal just because some people don’t know when to say when.

The best argument I’ve heard for banning gambling is that these unfortunate people with gambling problems would then become a burden on society. Maybe society as a whole is better off without bankrupt failed gamblers that they would then have to support. Again I would point to the regulation and taxation of the gambling industry. You could require sites to monitor for signs of gambling problems, or force them to promote safe gambling habits. You could also use the funds received by taxing the casinos to pay for counseling/rehabilitation/whatever for those problem gamblers.

Gambling is Immoral.

I think religion is a large force behind the anti gambling movement. Many religions see gambling as a sin, and thus they wish to outlaw it. Mixing religion with politics is not a good idea. Just as you don’t want my religion forced upon you, I don’t want yours forced upon me, and it would be nice if we could keep religion from dictating our laws. Not that that is possible.

But Wait. I Like to Play Poker. I’m not a Criminal.

Congratulations. Me too. So what do you do about it? For one thing, you can call or write your congressman or senator. You can also join groups such as the Poker Player’s Alliance which helps lobby on behalf of poker players and the industry. There are well funded groups attempting to ban online poker, help you can help contribute to its defense. At the very least, keep informed and don’t let them criminalize the activity we all know and love.



At 5:32 AM, Blogger jimbo said...

I think your points are very correctly presented and you articulated them well.

I believe the primary reason for the push to get the government involved in internet poker is that congress sees all of the money that is changing hands and they want to make sure they get a share of it.

That's what happens when we elect a greasy bunch of rat bastards whose primary motivation is to steal as much of our money as they can.

You can figure that a congress that is willing to skim money into their own pockets that was earmarked to provide body armor for our solidiers in Iraq, would want a piece of the quarters I'm pushing out onto a virtual poker table.

At 10:27 PM, Blogger ZeRat11 said...

I don't think the government getting involved is necessarily a bad thing. Every business gets taxed; it’s only fair that a casino would as well. And theoretically that money could be put to good use. If that’s what it takes to legitimize online poker I’m all for it.

At 10:49 AM, Blogger David Himel said...

online sites are most likely dishonest using algorithmic models designed to encourage rakes and decrease winning to minimise removal of currancy from the site pool as the rake system removes money to the company at quite a high rate of speed. They require a constant injection of new funds to keep the site going. That aside, for all the dillusional online gamblers, the real interest by the government is tax dollars and I for one would play on a goverment run gambling site, not offshore crooked ones


Post a Comment

<< Home