Monday, October 13, 2008

Online Gambling - Will Government Adapt to a Changing Market?

Online Gambling is a new market that has not been around for very long, as most people know. What they do not know, though, is that online gambling is a huge industry. Where does the United States Government stand on this issue? On a federal level, there is no ban on online gambling. They do make it difficult, though, for businesses in that industry to pursue the United States Market. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 makes it illegal for financial institutions to transfer funds to an internet gambling site (with the exceptions of online lotteries, horse racing, and fantasy sport sites). This has made it very difficult (thought not impossible) for people to transfer funds into such sites as Pokerstars, UltimateBet, etc.

There is potential that in the future the government will make an outright ban. According to the Poker Player's Alliance (PPA) over 80 countries worldwide have legalized online poker and actively regulate the industry. So far the United States has been resilient in its opposition of foreign companies who want to tap into the American market for online gambling.

Let's look at some of the reasons that the United States should legalize online gambling:

  • This is an issue of privacy - Why should the government dictate what Americans do in the privacy of their own home?

  • Betting on Horse Races online is legal - Again, why should government dictate what form of gambling Americans can take part in online?

  • Con argument: If we legalize online gambling, millions of underage kids will start gambling online. Actually, if online gambling was legalized and the government enforced regulation that required companies to have the best software on the market as far as registration, age screening, etc. it would be a lot harder for underage gamblers to get on a site.

  • The government is missing out on millions, if not billions, of tax revenues. I am not one for taxes, as you know, but it is true that the U.K. successfully regulates online gambling, taking a nice cut in taxes .

  • Poker in particular has exploded in popularity in the United States. Why should Americans have to drive or even fly somewhere to take part in a game when they can do so from the comfort of their home?

Where I stand: Legalize online gambling. Regulate it if you must, but for freedom and personal choice's sake, legalize it.

*Anyone who knows me knows that I like to play poker, and in turn, could say that me addressing this issue is too bias'ed. If you think this, re-read my arguments. These arguments should make sense even for someone who has no interest in poker whatsoever. Again, it's an issue of privacy and free choice and I can tell you that I do not believe that the government should dictate how people should choose to spend their money.

1 comment:

jpberthiaume said...

You could say the same thing using a different example, like blackjack so this shouldn't be viewed as a biased article. Poker is actually kind of different than true "gambling," like slots, in that it is a game of skill that also includes the element of "luck." If you don't see it as skill, how is it possible that any poker player in the world has one a particular tournament such as the World Series of Poker's Main Event *twice*? The odds of that would be far worse than winning the Powerball.

The hypocritical part of it all is that they make it as difficult for people to get money onto the sites as possible, but they do still expect you to pay taxes if you do gamble.

It boils down to this: there are a lot of things people (including kids) can spend their money on that is far worse than gambling, and all in the privacy of their home. They could just as easily rack up a ton of bills shopping online, buying pornography, or even buying materials and instructions for bomb-making. It is very difficult to figure out where opponents to online gambling are coming from. Regulate it to make it fair and honest, mandate that W-2s are sent out for all payouts (and require easy access to buy-in information so that it is easy for poker players to fill out tax forms) and sit back and watch as the tax revenues pour in from something that many make a hobby from and a few make a profession out of.

Oh, and people of the government, my front door is locked for a reason: stay out of my home!