Friday, June 12, 2009

Online Poker and Individual Responsibility

Unless you have been paying close attention to the online poker/gambling battle going on in the United States, you might have missed two big events that happened recently.

The first is the freezing of $34 million in assets that belong to online poker players by the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York. There was an article relating to this in today’s Wall Street Journal. This made me realize that the attempt by Minnesota to outlaw online gambling is a much smaller concern in retrospect than actual asset freezes. The second event was that Internet Service Providers dropped a federal lawsuit against a senior state law enforcement official Monday after he withdrew requests that the service providers block access to hundreds of online gambling sites. So it seems as though the online gambling issue in Minnesota, at least for now, should die.

Unfortunately this issue has become so messy that its hard to know who is right. On one hand, we have states that “kind of” pursue it but then eventually back down but still maintain that it is “illegal.” Then we have the federal government who do not try to make it cut and dry illegal, but instead go after banks or the middle men when it comes to transactions between the online sites and the consumer.

Though I almost always disagree with Representative Barney Frank, I do applaud him for introducing a bill that would legalize and regulate online poker. He is absolutely correct in his statement that there is a huge market (The Poker Player’s Alliance claims more than 10 million Americans engage in online poker each year) that should not be ignored. If Conservatives are worried about it encouraging gambling, what they should be concerned about is how easy it is for an under aged individual to get money on the site. I was on Pokerstars at age 16 and had no problem immediately getting cash into my account.

Let’s start promoting individual responsibility in this country and stop the nanny state where this logic that somehow government should decide for us what activities we can or cannot engage. When an individual engages in poker (or drinking, or smoking) they bear the full consequences of that action. Government is not above the individual, and never could be.

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