Prohibition Deja Vu? U.S. Says No To Online Gambling

Over the weekend congress quietly approved a bill that effectively makes online betting illegal in the United States. The bill makes it illegal for U.S banks and credit card companies to make payments to online gambling sites. The legislation was added to an unrelated bill by Republican Representative Jim Leach of Iowa. While not a big gambler myself this law is ridiculous and a slap in the face to civil liberty.

As I said I’m not a big gambler. I’ve never dropped a coin into a slot machine. The only time I’ve been to a casino was as an 8 year old on a family trip to Las Vegas. I have spent $5 on occasion to join an NCAA tournament pool and have sometimes joined weekly NFL pools. I think I played poker a handful of times while in college. If I had to guess my life’s spending in the pursuit of betting would total around $500, most of which was spent on the legal state lotteries like powerball and the occasional scratch off ticket. I’ve never so much as visited an online poker site.

And yet this law screams ludicrous to me. Who is our government to tell us what we can and cannot do with our money? I can appreciate that for some gambling is a problem. There are some who are addicted to betting, but most are not. And while I believe any government is there to protect its citizens that protection is in protecting us from others. My government has no business attempting to protect me from me. I can do that just fine and if I can’t then it’s me and me alone that pays the consequences. And if I do make a few mistakes along the way I might actually learn something that helps make me a better person.

I’d be happy to pass legislation helping those who do need help get that help. I would gladly pay more taxes to provide assistance to an addict. But I strongly disagree with enacting laws against the clear majority of people.

Because the situation over online gambling has been murky at best most sites offering gambling of any kind reside outside of the United States. Yet most of those companies make their biggest share of revenue within the U.S. Isn’t that an indication about what U.S citizens thinking of poker sites. With this new legislation some or perhaps in time most of these companies will likely go out of business.

Now I certainly wouldn’t mind less spam in my inbox asking me to visit a casino or some of the spammy comments to this blog, but I’m sure the number of each will be the same. They’ll just be pushing more viagra at me.

We Americans clearly like to gamble. Anyone watch some of the Texas Hold Em tournaments on ESPN recently? Caught the latest line on any game being played in the next week? Who’s the odds on favorite to win the World Series? The Super Bowl? What’s the spread on the Giants game next weekend? This law is out of touch with U.S. citizens. Why am I feeling Prohibition deja vu? Funny too since Prohibition occurred here some 40 years before my birth. The law will do nothing to keep people from gambling. I’ll even wager it will do little to keep people from gambling online. It will just make it harder and more secretive and likely lead to more dire consequences for those who do have a problem. I guess next week we’ll all need the secret password to access the site behind the site. Visit, type the secret word in the hidden form, and welcome to Ma Parker’s Internet Speakeasy of Poker and Online Betting.

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  1. In England we have fairly relaxed gambling laws. In my street alone we have 4 bookmakers and a fruit machine place. Even chip shops here have slot machines in them.
    Like you steve, I think it’s crazy that a government can tell people what they can spend thier money on.

    The vast vast majority of people who gamble spend what they can afford to lose and it never becomes a problem. If it was legal and widely available they could tax it and use that money to help the few people who do find themselves in difficulties as a result of gambling.

  2. Well, I have to note that the problem the government was trying to fix could be fixed with some other patch other than blocking everyone from gambling (however addictive it is and however negative impact it makes on some).

  3. Matt I’m often amazed at what we seem to think is objectionable here in the US. For example living here you would think that if a child ever saw a naked person their life would come to an immediate end and they would have no chance of ever being a successful adult. On the other hand it’s perfectly fine for them to be inundated with images of violence.

    I think it’s ridiculous to make rules for a few that affect the majority. I appreciate that not everyone will like every rule put before them, but to prohibit many from engaing in an activity they clearly want to participate in to protect the few who can’t participate responsibly makes no sense.

    If you continue doing that in time everything will be illegal. No matter what the activity there is usually a few who can’t do it responsibly. Should none of us be allowed to drive, because some people suffer from road rage.

    I can’t say if the motivation for the new laws is to protect those who can’t gamble responsibly. Just a hunch on my part. It’s probably more to do with a select few here who think gambling is wrong and were able to convince enough of those in power who could affect things.

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