Monday, October 02, 2006

Congress Passes Law to Curb Online Gambling

My poker card playing friends are crazed. My financial associates are dazed and my fellow free market advocates are outraged! Why? Because of the Safe Port Act Congress passed Saturday night (Sept.30). Embedded in this 244 page bill is a measure to curb internet gambling (starting on page 213).

First of all, the card players I know do not consider themselves gamblers. They study probabilities and human behavior. Some have advanced degrees in mathematics and computer sciences and many are lawyers, doctors, dentists and successful business people. Most recoil at the notion that they partake in "games of chance". Card playing is a practiced sport (if not a profession) for them. So why is the federal government involved?

Secondly, online poker sites are hugely popular. People from all over the world play a variety of games nightly. As a result, these poker sites are extremely profitable but most reside outside the United States. So why do the Feds care? Stock prices for these foreign companies have plummeted even though 80% of online players live outside the U.S.

I object to the government legislating morality. It has always been a terrible failure. Prohibition and "The War on Drugs" only created black markets, underground economies run by gangsters and thugs, governed not by the rules of law but by violence and deceit. Abstinence, moderation, restraint and responsibility can only be learned not legislated.

But something even greater is at stake here. Although this legislation targets online gambling owners and financial institutions, it is a thinly veiled attempt to regulate and control access to the internet which for me is totally unacceptable.

Bloggers and people who like to read blogs should be very concerned. The internet can be a wild and wooly place full of the fantastic and the fanatical, the divine and the disgusting. It is a self censored self monitored marketplace offering not only goods and services but ideas.

I have written my U.S. senator Wayne Allard to express my disapproval of the Safe Port Act (specifically the buried ban on online gambling) and I encourage any reader to do the same.