Online Gambling: A growing phenomenon in households nationwide, many people sit down after a hard day's work and login to try their luck at online gambling. Some play professionally, others for recreation, but both probably feel that there is little harm in doing it. The House of Representatives thinks differently about the issue.
The House of Representatives passed legislation on Tuesday that prevents the use of credit cards to make wagers online and block access to gambling Web sites. The bill was House Resolution 4777, the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act. Essentially, the bill would spell out and redefine existing federal laws that would outlaw online gambling. The legislation makes it illegal for banks and credit card companies to make payments to gambling sites and also increases the maximum prison sentence from two years to five years. It also opens the door for law enforcement agencies to force Internet Service Providers to remove all links to those online wagering sites.
All said and done however, internet gambling is not yet illegal, as it takes both a Congress and Senate vote in order to get it passed. Industry watchers highly doubt that the Senate will be voting on the bill this year due to many other higher priority measures, so it will likely be a year or two before a real decision is made.
Reasons for Banning Internet Gambling and Poker
Those that supported the bill argued that the phenomenon of online gambling is a danger to young people. With today's youth so entrenched in the Internet; they have a higher susceptibility to try online gambling. This new generation spends more time logging in to their computer than watching TV or studying. They believed that Internet gambling is addictive and can result in dire consequences. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, one of the key supporters of the bill, said "Never before has it been so easy to lose so much money so quickly at such a young age."
The bill has niche carving in its writing which allow for exemption in the legislation. Under the provision of the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978, betting operators would not be prohibited from engaging in online wagering activity. State-run lotteries would also be exempt from the law. The bill seems to be targeted as specific types of wagering; sports betting, casino games and poker.
Loopholes in the Ban
Opponents of the bill criticized the exemptions of state lotteries and horse betting. The bill seems to be written to only target specific types of betting and games, while others are allowed to operate freely. Rep Shelley Berkley, D-Nevada, stated, "it was unfair to allow online lotteries and Internet betting on horse racing to flourish while cracking down on other kinds of sports betting, casino games and card games like poker."
Michael Bolcerek, president of the Poker Players Alliance released this statement after the passing of the legislation, "They call it prohibition. It's really Congress picking winners and losers." These exemptions deflate the issue of protecting America's youth and accentuate the influence of special interest groups that are concerned with loss of revenue to their virtual counterparts.
Some debated for an amendment to the bill so that horse racing would be included, but Bob Goodlatte, and Jim Leach fought against that addition. They feared if horse racing were an addition to the bill, it would be the poison pill clause that would stop the bill. Apparently, horse racing and state lotteries are not a big threat to the American values, compared to Poker, Casino games, and Sports Betting.
Critics argued that a more appropriate solution would be to regulate the industry, instead of complete prohibition. The enforcement of the legislation would infringe on the privacy rights and its enforcement would be extremely difficult. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts stated, "Prohibition didn't work for alcohol. It won't work for gambling." RIAA lobbied for the enforcement of illegal downloading which threatened their industry. File sharing copyrighted material is illegal, yet many users continue to do it because it is near impossible to track all possible users.
Online Gambling Finds a Surprising Ally
The American Gaming Association has opposed online gambling, but recently has backed a research study into the regulation of the online gaming industry. The released study shows that more than $3.3 billion in federal and state revenue could be generated if the industry was properly regulated and taxed in the U.S. Since 2000, the industry revenue has quadrupled to $12 billion with a majority of the money coming from the U.S. It is projected that by 2010, the online gambling industry will generate $24.5 billion.
Internet Enforcement Raises Eyebrows
One of the controversial issues of the bill is the enforcement of the law. If law enforcement is effective in its blocking of these specific URLs, it is censorship of the Internet. Considering that the U.S. is firm in its apprehensions on the censorship of the Internet in China, this bill is nonetheless doing the same thing.
One of the most important and unalienable rights of the U.S. citizen is the freedom of speech. Many critics say that Americans are being denied the right to choose what they can and cannot do in their own homes. This issue could continue to receive flak from critics, gambling enthusiasts, and Internet advocates who support free information. The Republican Party led House and its "moral" values have pushed the agenda within the debates. This bill is an example of many proposed bills that many critics say impose the values of a small minority onto larger public whether or not they agree with it.
Many see this is the first step in the eventual ban of online gambling in the U.S., as the ban isn't law yet. The next hurdle it needs to pass is the Senate. The issue of online gambling has not been debated in the Senate this year and has not been noted as a top priority by Senate leaders. The bill has two more rounds of betting before it can be made law. Gambling enthusiasts are hoping to catch something on the turn or the river.