In a rather interesting move, online gaming effectively became illegal recently do to a new piece of legislation. This move by the federal government raises a host of issues.
In what some consider a sneaky move, online gaming was effectively banned recently by a piece of law passed within another piece of law. This often happens in Congress to the frustration of many. In this case, Congress was set to pass the Safe Harbor Act, which was a piece of legislation concerning our ports from potential terrorist attacks. Online gaming, poker specifically, would seem to have little to do with terrorist and ports. Nonetheless, the “Unlawful Internet Gambling Act of 2006" was attached to it. When the Safe Harbor Bill received a favorable vote, the attached gambling act also became law. There was no separate vote.
Given the name, one would think the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act makes online gambling illegal. It does not. Instead, the powers that be went after the money. They effectively made it a crime for a bank to transfer money to an online gambling company. By cutting off the money, they effectively eliminate online gambling. In the ultimate bit of hypocrisy, certain types of gambling such as horse racing were exempted.
Make no mistake, the purpose of this new law is to attack the online poker industry. The industry has grown like mad. Annual revenues are believed to be in the ten to fifteen billion dollar range. At least they used to be. With the passage of the new law, the publicly traded online poker companies either closed outright or saw their stock devalued to the point where it nearly became the equivalent of toilet paper. In a flick of pen, an industry was wiped out.
Legislating morality is nothing new with government. We have laws on drinking ages, smoking ages, assault, battery and, of course, murder. There is a fine line, however, between legislating against a real threat and simply playing big brother. When it comes to online poker, there are as many people that will support its legality as there are that argue it should be illegal. Those against it, however, seem to have some explaining to do when it comes to the fact most states have lotteries which are a losers bet any way you look at them. Throw in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Indian casinos and you suddenly have a pretty difficult time seeing why online poker is so bad when these others prosper.
Whatever you opinion on the matter, there is a bigger issue at hand. At what point are people responsible for their own actions? Personal responsibility seems on the wane in this country and to disastrous affect. Why, New York City is even thinking about banning certain types of fast foods. Last time I looked, nobody was forcing people to eat fast food. Where will it end? Will cars soon have safety devices on them that only allow us to drive 55 or whatever the state speed limit is? It sounds like a stupid question, but no more so than banning online poker in my opinion.
Our country was originally based on the idea that people are free to do what they want for better or for worse. These days, one has to wonder if that still holds true.
Gerard Simington is with FindAnAttorneyForMe.com - an online legal information resource.