Internet Gambling Deserves a New Chance

The U.S. should heed the wrath of the World Trade Organization by making betting games legal on the Web. Pro or con?

NEW! PODCAST: Our debators respond to your reader comments. Download or listen online

Pro: It’s Prohibition All Over Again

The passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in October has led Antigua, which had previously sued America in 2003 before the World Trade Organization over the issue of Internet gambling, to seek relief before the world body once more. Chief among Antigua’s claims was that U.S. laws against Internet gambling constituted a trade barrier in violation of trade obligations.

American intransigence on the issue prompted the WTO to clear Antigua to collect $7 billion, and the fallout from this dispute could ultimately cost the U.S. tens of billions of dollars, as claims from major trading partners pour in, most notably from the European Union, Japan, India, and Canada. The U.S.’s actions are blatantly unfair, considering that the U.S. ranks as the single biggest instigator of WTO claims against unfair trading practices.

The U.S. stands virtually alone in its uncompromising stance against Internet gambling, a position that is writ large by UIGEA and its actions at the WTO. The attempts to ban Internet gambling are misguided and unproductive, and will do nothing to protect responsible adults.

Far from being deterred by the Internet gambling ban, U.S. consumers are easily doing an end run around it, because their enthusiasm for online gambling has not waned. Regulation, not prohibition, is in the best interest of consumers. A ban does little except steer individuals to unscrupulous online gambling outfits that operate in the shadows of the industry and may well take advantage of the most vulnerable players.

The U.S. Justice Dept. has gone out of its way to undermine legitimate and licensed Internet gaming operators worldwide. Officers and board members of Internet gambling companies vetted and approved for trading on London markets—and underwritten by some of the globe’s most respected financial institutions—have been taken into custody while on U.S. soil. And U.S. authorities have arrested online-payment company executives on specious charges of money laundering.

It remains too early to tell how much this untenable war against Internet gaming will cost the U.S. in trade flows, innovation, and moral authority. But it is perfectly clear that it is time for America to stop pretending that the rule of law is a one-way street.

Con: This Vice Deserves No Encouragement

The U.S. government’s obligation to protect its citizens from a toxic, addictive product exceeds its responsibility to please the gnomes at the WTO.

Gambling addiction rises predictably with proximity of games and speed of play. Nothing is more proximate than a personal computer, and nothing works faster. Plus, the Internet adds the deadly element of anonymity. The neighbors won’t spot you at the virtual casino. Solid citizens with no previous criminal record commit outrageous crimes when addicted to gambling.

The rate of divorce, spousal and child abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, bankruptcy, and suicide rises disproportionately high with gambling addiction. The WTO ruling claims foreign interests should have access to all American homes, because some states allow people to bet on horse races via the Internet. That makes as much sense as allowing foreign heroin and cocaine producers to offer drugs over the Internet simply because some pharmacies sell codeine cough syrup. Considering the implications for the U.S., this is not a slippery slope; it is a cliff.

This is not a "conservative moral issue." Disdain for Internet gambling crosses all party lines and interests. Opposition comes from everywhere from the NFL to the Mormon Church. From Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Americans oppose gambling because it functions as a drain on the economy and the society.

Offshore opportunists claim that the U.S. can’t control Internet gambling, so it should regulate and tax it. If it can’t be controlled, then how could it be responsibly regulated or taxed? States already have a difficult enough time regulating gambling at casinos and racetracks. Internet gambling would prove much more difficult to monitor than brick-and-mortar casinos. Gaming proponents claim legalization will decrease illegal gambling, though no jurisdiction has ever proved that. To the contrary, the mob loves legalized gambling. It trains customers.

And Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) can quit comparing this to Prohibition. Even with the UIGEA, he can still fleece his fellow Congressmen face to face. We just don’t want him and his offshore card sharks trolling for suckers in our living rooms.

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the BusinessWeek Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of BusinessWeek, BusinessWeek.com, or The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Reader Comments

RK

The same can be said about alcohol and tobacco. Personally, if you don't have the will to take these so-called vices in a responsible way, you deserve anything that happens because of your lack of responsibility.

Let's prohibit alcohol.
Let's prohibit tobacco.

Why stop there?

Let's stop dirty movies because God forbids them.
Let's stop video games because of social isolation.
Let's stop sports because of injuries.

Give me a freaking break.

Bobby Mamudi

It says it all really when the "Pro" argument is so coherent and the "Con" argument begins with a personal attack on all the members of an international institution.

robert e

I am an offshore gaming executive (www.lazerwager.com). I can assure you that the Con is so off base it is not even funny. I personally hate smoking and drinking, two other social diseases that cause more damage to U.S. citizens and the country's economy in one year than gambling online for entertainment ever will. Internet gaming operators are more in tune with clients' well being than any land-based casino. Thanks to technology, we can track and monitor every transaction coming into our system, assuring that no player can lose more than a limited number of dollars daily, weekly, and monthly. Our payment processors are very restrictive as to these policies and ensure that we comply, or we don't get paid (we do not accept cash). And as far as kids playing online, it is virtually impossible. Once again ID verification technology and credit card companies' databases play a major role in preventing unauthorized credit card use. We require proper ID when accepting credit card deposits and payments. The U.S. government fears online gambling only because the profits go to companies domiciled in outlying jurisdictions.

Dave Starks

1.The rate of divorce, spousal and child abuse, gambling, bankruptcy, and suicide and accidents are disproportionately high with alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction. We should then ban alcohol.

2. I have to stand in line at every corner market for 10 minutes waiting for folks to purchase their lottery tickets, some purchases totaling hundreds of dollars. Horse racing is on TV daily and a major pastime our community. We also have a couple of casinos within 45 minutes to one hour away. The state lottery is advertised daily in newspapers and on TV and radio--talking about how I can become a millionaire instantly.

But I will go to jail for playing poker or betting online. What hypocrisy.

3. Either legalize Internet gambling or get rid of state lotteries and Indian casinos. The state lotteries and Indian casinos are causing more problems to society than Internet gambling ever could.

Robert Medl

Personal freedom and personal accountability are tenets of our society. We should be free to choose the activities in which we participate (i.e., gambling in any form), understanding that these choices may have both positive and negative consequences.

Dante

The WTO didn't try to force pornography to be open on the Web in Muslim countries. Why should it then turn around and try to force loosening of moral standards in the U.S.?

RR

I've always stated, if it's good for U.S. residents in Las Vegas, then it should be acceptable for the same U.S. resident who chooses to live in Alaska to wager. Don't penalize people because they choose to live where they want. People in Wyoming, New York, or California should have the same rights as other Americans who live in Las Vegas.

CB

Dear RK,
Let's see you fire up your computer and get alcohol or tobacco out of it. Instant delivery of an addictive product is the issue. You go to a store to buy alcohol and tobacco. You go to a casino to gamble. We don't need it on the Internet.

We have criminalized child pornography, we have labeled video games, and we have stopped a number of "sports."

What you're asking for isn't a "break." It's a license to take other people's money and deliver nothing in return. Play all the games you want on the Net, but leave out the gambling.

Carl B

To suggest that legalizing and "regulating" Internet gambling will somehow preclude illegal, unscrupulous, and unauthorized gamblers from the Net is absurd. The Pros in this argument already admit that illegal operators are penetrating the shield. Through a screen of legal sites, they would wash through in droves. Legalizing gambling has always increased illegal gambling, because the illegal guys offer better odds, loans, etc. They have "lower costs" and "more effective collection measures." Consumers go where they get the "deal" they want, and that tends to be the crooks. Plus, allowing WTO authority in this argument overrides all states' rights. Regulation would have to be at the international or federal level, and no state could alter that.

George B

Even those who proposed anarchy as a form of self-governance did so with the naive thought that humans could be educated to the point that they would care for and about one another--not because they thought people had a right to do whatever strikes their fancy.

But that notion failed, and we do not live in anarchy. "Personal freedom and personal accountability are tenets of our society." Nonsense. Self governance by definition means we limit our personal freedoms for protection of and from one another. Though we may have extensive liberty to choose the activities in which we may participate, we do not have the right to lure others into traps that will ruin their lives. This issue is driven by people who want to take other peoples' money and give nothing in return.

And what's this "alcohol and tobacco are worse" argument? Do we need to add another self-destructive behavior just because--well, we aren't dead yet? We should have wide-open gambling in our homes because people smoke and drink? I don't get it. Besides, you can't fire up your computer and get a beer and a smoke, one after another after another. It just isn't the same thing.

James E.Fish

We pride ourselves on being a law-abiding nation. We signed the WTO treaty and ratified it so it is the law of the United States. By not abiding by the legal rulings of the WTO, we are no better than a run-of-the-mill bandit. Law is law, and we made it part of our law to follow WTO rulings. Internet gambling, especially poker, is none of the government's business. I don't need autocrats in Washington telling me what's good for me. That attitude belongs in totalitarian countries, not a free nation, as we claim to be. If we are a nation of law, we should follow it. The results of this folly will be the same as Prohibition and the failed war on drugs. Failure.

SK

"Prohibition all over again"?

Oh for pity sakes. Prohibition was when one couldn't buy booze anywhere. If this were prohibition, you wouldn't have casinos and lotteries and scratch-offs everywhere you turn. There are tens of thousands of places to gamble in this country--on the ground. We don't need gambling on the cables and airwaves and phone lines.

This isn't about prohibiting gambling. It's about drawing a line somewhere. So let's draw the line on the ground--not in the thin air of cyberspace.

We don't need gambling on the Internet.

The U.S. isn't alone in this fight, either. Lots of countries ban Internet gambling, and many still outlaw gambling altogether.

There are a lot of people who have weaknesses in the world. This online gambling thing is just another way for shysters to destroy the weak and suck them dry. It's anonymous, so the parasites don't even have to see their victims. It's an ugly thing we are better off without.

m

Send your representatives letters letting them know you do not appreciate their taking away your personal choices. Now it's poker; what's next?


Patrick Fleming

Prohibition of any vice has never worked, and generally caused more harm than it prevented. "Those who ignore history..."

I recognize the harms of gambling addiction, just as I recognize the harms of alcohol addiction, drug addiction, pornography addiction, etc. But two key points are obvious:

1) Not anything near a majority of people who drink or gamble ever become addicted (I believe the worst figures are around 5%). Why should the 95% of people who drink and gamble responsibly be deprived of their fun because of the small subset who cannot be responsible?

2) Returning to history, we as a society are far more capable of reducing the harm by identifying the addicts and providing them treatment when we have open, regulated markets for these products. Drug dealers openly and willingly sell to children; licensed liquor stores do not.

Patrick Fleming

And another thing, the notion that there is some huge difference between playing poker on my home computer and walking all of five minutes to a store that will happily sell me all the lottery tickets, cigarettes, and booze I want, is absolutely ludicrous.

random

If we take the con argument seriously, we must ban anything that can be addictive. This means no more alcohol (yeah, that one worked out great in the 1920s), no more tobacco, no more video or computer games, no more sleeping pills, no more painkillers, and no more tanning or gyms since people can get hung up on keeping a bronze tan or going to the gym every day to the point of being addicted to the rush of endorphins. Hey, after all, if people can be addicted to something, a group of people fanatically dedicated to eradicating that something due to their personal beliefs should force the government to ban it, right?

Yes, Mr. Clark, your position as the chairman of a religious special-interest group that attacks legalized gambling on the same fallacious logic that didn't work in the 1950s didn't escape me. For someone like you to talk about the pitfalls of gambling is like a mobster warning people what will happen if they don't pay him protection money. You have such a vested interest in people obeying your words that you have all the incentive in the world to lie and exaggerate.

Jono

I do not want the government telling me what I can and cannot do in the privacy and comfort of my own home.

Grasshopp3r

It is really simple to not play if you choose not to play. It is another issue for you to choose for me.

I do not gamble on casino games, but I play poker, which is a game of skill.

Your religious zealotry is nothing more than more hypocrisy. I am a conservative and libertarian member of the Republican party, and I am actively working to defeat the religious right wing of the party. Judge not lest ye be judged.

Robin

Are you people forgetting where it is you live? This is America. The issue here is liberty and personal responsibility. Irresponsible people do irresponsible things, so what? They have the right to do so. Just because we have addicted smokers, compulsive gamblers, drunks et al in our society--who by the way make up a small minority of the population--doesn't mean we go around through our electorate like some dictator does in some Third World country, and start restricting everyone's freedoms and rights because of a minority group's undesirable actions/conduct. That isn't freedom, and that isn't living in a free country.

Alcohol, tobacco, and prescription medicines are legal and have been documented to cause more harm to people, their families, and society than gambling has or ever will have. So why are booze, smokes, and meds still legal and gambling is "semi" legal (sports gambling on the Net is illegal, for instance)? The answer, of course, is that people have a right, to a certain extent, to be able to do these things, even if they're wrong for them. It's called liberty. People who abuse and are irresponsible with their personal choices are solely to blame for their follies and no one and/or nothing else. But they still have a right to engage in self-destructive conduct, if they chose to do so, because that's what living in America--or any true free country--is all about.

This so-o-o should be a non-issue, but the fact that it is, in all places here, should be disheartening to freedom lovers everywhere.

George B

Dear M,
"Send your representatives letters letting them know you do not appreciate their taking away your personal choices. Now it's poker; what's next?"

How 'bout taking away your choices like other forms of theft, robbery, murder, and rape?

That's what all laws do. They limit our ability to make choices that damage other people. There has never been a Constitutional right to swindle other people out of their money. For bewildering reasons, a good many states have decided such theft by consent is a good idea as long as the states get a cut of the action--but that still doesn't make it a God-given right.

You are advocating anarchy. Self government implies that we will govern ourselves, which means we will have laws restricting some of our personal choices.

Debbie Langille

I applaud the U.S. for having the courage to ban online gambling. It's obvious from most of the replies I have read that these people have never had a gambling addiction or known someone who has and the true devastation it causes--and not just to the gambler.

There are virtually no controls in place to prevent children from gambling online. It's easy to just check the box that says you are of legal age.

I feel sorry for people uneducated about the true cost of gambling, period. There are no other vices out there that can ruin a person's life so quickly. You could never drink or take drugs equal to the amount of money spent in a day on gambling, or you would be dead. Remember, this is the invisible addiction that you cannot see in your eyes or smell on your breath. You may be surprised at the people you already know who are suffering because of gambling, but are hiding it.

I'm in Canada. The gambling fever has caught on throughout the world. The government has recognized a way to bring in more money at no matter what the cost to the people who have given so much to provide those profits.

As for making a conscious choice, I don't know anyone who became addicted by gambling for "entertainment purposes" and thought, wow I'm going to become a gambling addict. Once addicted, you have no choice.

May the rest of the world follow the U.S. in banning online gambling and eventually start banning many other forms of gambling that have created such disastrous results, even death.

Debbie Langille, Communications
GameOverVLTs.com
Nova Scotia

Robin

George B,
Your analogies are absolutely ridiculous. All your examples deal with victims and perpetrators who commit wrongs on otherwise unsuspecting or unwilling people.

When you play a game of basketball with your buddies and you are getting your butt kicked because your buddies have more skill, do you start screaming rape to the cops?

When you go out with the boys for a night of bowling and you reckon that by the fifth bowl you're gonna lose big to these guys, do you yell murder to the cops?

When you go out to a casino to play some slots, maybe some blackjack, and God forbid some friendly poker, and by the end of the night when you're about to leave, you reach into your wallet and count that you are down $150, do you shout theft as loudly as you can to the cops?

Please be serious, and show some education here.

Kraut

I love the idea from Jono: "I do not want the government telling me what I can and cannot do in the privacy and comfort of my own home."

Like building bombs, cooking meth, or taking people's money from all over the globe?

It's not like you're doing something "private" when you're gambling on the worldwide net.

And poker is not a game of skill. It is a game of chance with some skill involved. If it was skill, the same guys would win the big tournaments every year. There is nothing skillful about which card comes up next.

Robin

Debbie,
The actions of a few irresponsible people do not and should not dictate public policy.

Hence, we still allow people to drive. Ever heard of drunk driving or driving under the influence?

Hence, we still let people get married. Ever heard of divorces? Spousal abuse? Broken families?

Hence, we let people drink alcohol in the comfort of their own homes. Ever heard of alcoholics? Alcohol-induced rages?

And so on.

By your rationale, Debbie, we ought to outlaw things that can be potentially bad for us, if abused.

So Debbie, should we outlaw cars? How about marriage? How about liquor licenses? Why stop at gambling?

The stupidity of a few in society is not reason enough to outlaw the practices that a lot of people in society already (and responsibly) enjoy.

John A. Pappas

Yes, this issue is about freedom, but it is also about the appropriate government response to Internet gambling.

In full disclosure, I am executive director of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA). I would argue that the PPA and our more than 740,000 members agree with the stated goals of those who promoted the UIGEA--preventing underage gambling, helping problem gamblers, combating fraud and abuse--we have a drastically different approach to addressing those legitimate issues, however.

A prohibition won't work; Americans learned this long ago. In order to have safeguards and controls to protect vulnerable populations, the federal government must regulate this industry. Some common-sense legislators understand this, and they are working to promote legislation that would regulate the industry and put in place the necessary protections. Interestingly, Internet gaming, particularly Internet poker, provides opportunities for operators to deliver responsible gaming programs that meet or exceed what is currently done in the "brick and mortar" industry.

Our organization and our nearly 1 million members will continue to educate lawmakers about the benefits of regulation. Someone once said that Americans will always do the right thing, once they've exhausted all other alternatives.

Eric

It is not the job of our government to protect people from their own choices when they do not involve the taking of another's rights. Murder, theft, and other crimes are illegal because they take away rights to life, property, etc. We have an agreement with our government called the Constitution. It says that I have rights including the pursuit of happiness. If I choose gambling as a pleasurable pursuit, that is my right--as it is my right to spend too much money on a pair of sneakers or $500 on a concert ticket that others would not consider attending. Gambling can ruin lives, no question about it, but many trappings of a free society can be abused. Also, the hypocrisy of the government is laughable. I work in an inner-city neighborhood and see poor people spend their last dollars on state-run lottery tickets that probably have the worst odds of any type of gambling. I think that responsible disclosure of the risks by government, casinos, etc. is fine, but a ban on activities that do not take away the rights of others is not part of the agreement between the people and our government, and I don't want it to be.

John Stansfield

I lead the Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand, the largest problem gambling agency in the world. We are not prohibitionists, but we are anti-harm. Internet gambling should not be allowed until it has significantly improved safety features such as pre-commit systems and player-tracking software that ensure responsible use by both player and gambling provider. Technology now exists to prevent gambling harm, and that is important because no one can avoid gambling harm, player or not. Gambling related crime--and there is a lot of it, including theft, robbery, drug running, money laundering and domestic violence--harms not only gamblers but millions of innocent victims.

If the USA were to adopt real responsible gambling measures on all gambling, then offshore Internet gambling would be illegal, even by WTO definitions, if it did not have the same duty-of-care standards.

Raising the bar on host responsibility, as we have done by prohibiting alcohol sales to minors and those intoxicated, is the only long-term solution.

John Stansfield
CEO
PGFNZ
www.PGFNZ.org.nz

robert e

SK, you are living in a dream world. It's OK for local governments to approve and sell online lottery tickets--the biggest gamble of all--and allow horse betting due to powerful lobbyists, but playing blackjack, slots, or poker online should be banned? This is more than just a gambling issue. It's a protectionism issue. Just ask the WTO and the countries that have been affected by this ridiculous law. Ask why Antigua, Barbuda, India, Japan, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Macao, CARICOM, and the EU (not exactly a Third World country) are all seeking compensation from the U.S. for economic injury resulting from trade agreement violations. This industry was composed of London Stock Exchange companies for which I was an executive before the U.S. government sneaked in a bill wiping out billions of dollars of stock value overnight, which affected thousands of UK citizens as well as many U.S. mutual funds that had invested in this exciting and growing industry. Give me and the vast majority of posters here a break. Contrary to your belief, there is no anonymity online. We know everything about our clients--unlike land-based casinos, where cash is needed but no identity. I ran a very large Vegas casino before moving offshore, and I can tell you that land-based casinos have absolutely no regard for their clients' welfare; it's all about "extracting those dollars from the people who come through our doors," and nothing else matters (other than casino security, which only serves to prevent lawsuits)--unlike online, where, as I mentioned, every transaction is monitored. So SK and everyone else who thinks this is just about gambling should do some homework.

Tom

How many millions of people have been or are being killed in the name of God? By your logic, we should outlaw religion.

D. L. aka "OldBookGuy

The con:
1. The U.S. government's obligation to protect its citizens from a toxic, addictive product.
Truth: OK, I'll buy that. Now let's start with the Home Shopping Network. Many are addicted to shopping. We must make shoppers go to the mall, no shopping on TV and the Internet.

2. If it can't be controlled, then how could it be responsibly regulated or taxed? States already have a difficult enough time.
OK, so tell me how is it the states seem to have no problem regulating and taxing Internet gambling via AOL, MSN, and Yahoo? Games where skill/cash competitions run 24/7 are marketed next to children's games, where children are playing 24/7. Perhaps the target is not online gaming after all; the target is perhaps simply a sector deemed un-Christian or immoral. As to the Muslim countries and pornography and the WTO, they opted out of the same, as the United States could have done. Instead, the U.S. simply wrote in as an objection, non-sports. OK, just no sports betting. Why are AOL, MSN, and Yahoo cash-wagering on (ok this is too funny)?:
1. Solitaire
2. Hearts
3. Spades
4. Free cell
5. Rummy poker
6. Children's video games

Look for yourself. Please, Mr., please, tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but, er, the truth? Nah, too simple. Enough on the con, for now.

G Clark

Every society draws lines that distinguish acceptable from unacceptable behavior. They vary a lot from nation to nation. Some countries allow the use of marijuana, cocaine, etc., while others (like the U.S.) prohibit them. Is it hypocritical for our country to prohibit some drugs, like cocaine, while allowing the free use of others, like Motrin? If we can logically make these distinctions, why is it hypocritical to make distinctions for the very most addictive forms of gambling as well?

In the original determination of the GATS by the WTO, the U.S. submitted the category on entertainment, keeping gambling out. The WTO used another schedule for entertainment and slipped gambling into our agreement without our knowledge. We signed the GATS without knowing that they had slipped that in. Gambling on the Internet was never the intent of our trade negotiators. The U.S. tried to work around the mistake, but it was obviously a flawed policy. They should have objected immediately when they found that the WTO had stiffed them, but they were trying to avoid making waves. They have recently applied to get that category corrected to exclude gambling.

And do you actually trust the WTO to set standards of behavior that can override laws in 50 states in our Union as well as statutes of the U.S. Congress?

Weston

We've heard from the anarchists and libertarians as well as some liberals and so-called conservatives. Over the past two centuries America learned that freedom is a good thing, but it's always freedom within responsibility. It was a bad idea when the online-gambling promoter predators, mostly from overseas, brought online gambling to America. That's why Congress passed the law to limit the ability of those predators to enter our homes using our phone lines. Most opponents of online gambling are not opposed to bets between friends. What I oppose is the application of the free-market idea to online gambling, thereby allowing people who are willing to use it to abuse the addicted. Probably half the money lost on gambling in our country, whether lottery, casino, or online, is lost by people who have become addicted to a game. If you create a free market for wolves, you will precipitate a slaughter for the lambs. Online gambling takes dead aim at individuals who will be the increasing number of addicted, hurting gamblers in America.

Keep the wolves behind the fence.


Grasshopp3r

I will quote your incorrect assertion:

"And poker is not a game of skill. It is a game of chance with some skill involved. If it was skill, the same guys would win the big tournaments every year. There is nothing skillful about which card comes up next."

Actually, the same folks win more than they should, if luck is more prevalent than skill in poker. Skill is a greater factor than luck for poker success.

I can agree with you that there are casino games that have long-term negative expected value, but poker is not one of them. Why would anyone play the slots or any of the other table games? There is the chance that they will win short term. I don't play those games, but you have failed to answer why you should deny me the right to play if I so choose.

The issue is choice.

Joe

We are Americans, and when making decisions, we should err on the side of freedom. The argument that if you want to gamble, we have plenty of it, is absurd. I do not like scratch tickets or betting on horses; it is not my thing.

Throughout the past five years, I had different reasons why Internet poker was preferable to going to a casino. While I battled cancer a few years back, I was unable to go to a casino due to fatigue and a weakened immune system. (They do not offer couches to lie down on and play cards everywhere.) Online poker allowed me to continue to enjoy the game I love even while I was sick. It was a great distraction during a very difficult time in my life.

Today, if I want to play poker where the government says it's okay, the closest place is a two-hour drive, $35 worth of gas, one-hour wait, and then a two-hour drive home. With a 3-year-old at home, it is better to play a $20 tournament after a long day's work after he goes to bed than to be out all night.

I agree that gambling can be a problem for some, but we should help those people, not ban it for everyone.

Dianne

Kraut,
Your argument that if poker was skill, the same guy would win every year: Does Tiger Woods win every golf tournament? There is some chance involved in poker, but your argument does not hold water.

random

"And poker is not a game of skill. It is a game of chance with some skill involved. If it was skill, the same guys would win the big tournaments every year. There is nothing skillful about which card comes up next."

Oh, but many of the same guys are at the finalist table year after year after year, winning hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars. The skill of poker has to do with convincing people to make the decision you want them to make by subtle and not-so-subtle cues. Poker is a game of manipulating people's actions, and that requires skill.

Also, comparing narcotics production to taking money from people around the world is a classic non-sequitur. You could have an online business selling some interesting widget you made in your spare time for social-networking sites and be taking money from other people around the whole world. Taking money is not a criminal act. In fact, you do this every time you get a paycheck. In fact, according to this statement, BusinessWeek's act of charging advertisers on its site is the same as cooking meth in your basement.

Selling people a product known to be either deadly or debilitating in 100% of the cases is illegal, as it should be. Selling a game that may be seriously damaging, say, 2% of the time, is hardly comparable with any degree of intellectual honesty. It's as if anti-gambling crusaders believe that because they know or have heard of several people with a gambling problem, it gives them the right to ignore the fact that millions of people like me gamble without losing our homes, families, jobs, or more than a grand total of $100 a year.

marcus

This world is a mess because of reduced morality. One should exhibit moderation in every endeavor except acting civil to others. Gambling, alcohol, and tobacco can be enjoyed in moderation. Once they are taken to excess, we know the end result.

danny

The biggest opponents of online gambling seem to either have an agenda or really know very little about it. I am an adult who makes his living by gambling and find it very hypocritical that if I was trading on what the price of coffee or orange juice futures would be on a mercantile exchange, I'd be a respectable citizen, but if I want to invest on who's going to win the NFC, I'm a lowlife.

George B's comments are so obnoxious that it reminds me that these types of people need to be fought to the death if they try to take your liberty away, because as usual, they are so smart and morally superior and know what's best for everyone. Give me a break.

I have had my own business for many years, and in that time, I have dealt with many "legitimate" companies. And I must say, some of the most professional, customer-service friendly, and most of all trustworthy, have been major off-shore bookmakers. George B calls these folks "swindlers" who offer nothing? Wrong. They are brokerage houses that set prices, and take a very small commission, similar to any brokerage house. The state promotes (with our money) their lotteries, which they take a ridiculous 50% cut on, and they are mostly for the poor and uneducated. Most sports wagers or poker tournaments, on the other hand, take 3% to 9%, thereby giving the player a legitimate chance.

America was built on risk-taking and an entrepreneurial spirit that says everyone deserves the right to pursue his or her dream. So the states offer "a dollar and a dream" ads that are moral with 50% takeouts, but when I want to chase my dreams through legitimate markets with very low takeouts and a variety of options, that is a detriment to society?

Oh, "but the lottery money is spent on education" goes the argument. Please, you really think all that money just goes to math and science departments, and never funds junkets to Bermuda for the executives of the teachers union or the department of education ski trips? Meanwhile, these "criminal" offshore bookmakers legitimately employ thousands who feed and clothe their children and pay their own bills.

When people say that governments should profit from businesses that private people should not or cannot, it sounds a lot like Marx and Ingalls to me.

Guy Clark seems like a man with integrity and probably truly believes in his convictions. He makes some valid points, and I respect his right to express his opinion. But when a dentist from Utah is allowed to influence my ability to put food on my table by destroying free-market trading and the erosion of my personal Constitutional and god-given liberty, something is very wrong.

Joe

Weston said: "Probably half the money lost on gambling in our country, whether lottery, casino, or online, is lost by people who have become addicted to a game."

Do you have a source to back this up? A lot of statistics are being thrown around here as fact.


Eric

Cocaine has been proven to have harmful effects and is not safe on the open market; Motrin has been approved as safe, so there is a logical choice there. Government can't claim to be concerned about our safety on the issue of gambling and then allow and actually produce games themselves. That is hypocritical. The fact is there is no benign intent with these laws. Governments vehemently oppose them, because they have a gold mine with lotteries that 99% of people would not win if they played every week for 20 lifetimes. Gambling that exists on the open market like Nevada is always more fair, because the swindlers lose out to ones producing the fairest games.

SLP

Good ideas do not need lies, half-truths, and personal attacks to sell. Mr. Clark's rant offers all three within the space of his first statement of non-fact.

If your argument is based on the prevalence of societal harm, you bear the burden of demonstrating that harm. Unsupported, unsourced, and outlandish repetitions of the same unproven allegations are simply insufficient. Anecdotal evidence of a few problem gamblers is similarly insufficient: The plural of "anecdote" is not "data."

So, even accepting for the purposes of argument that the government should regulate if these alleged societal harms are proven to exist in the magnitude you claim, you have failed to prove that such regulation will be either necessary or effective.

TheEngineer

My letter to one of the lead big government social conservatives:

The Honorable Spencer Bachus
2246 Rayburn Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Cc: President George Bush; Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; my Representative (on the House Financial Services Committee); both of my Senators; The House Financial Services Committee; The House Judiciary Committee; Rep. Ron Paul; and Michael Duncan, Republican National Committee

Dear Congressman Bachus:

I’m writing in response to last Friday’s House Financial Services Committee hearing on Internet gambling (June 8, 2007: Can Internet Gambling Be Effectively Regulated to Protect Consumers and the Payments System?). I was very impressed with the quality of the hearing, especially with the witnesses who testified in favor of regulated Internet gambling. I felt the expert testimony of Michael Colopy of Aristotle Inc., Jon Prideaux of Asterion Payments, and Gerald Kitchen of SecureTrading Ltd. proved that Internet gambling can be regulated effectively (and has been successfully regulated in Britain). This pleased me, as I do share your concerns for underage gambling, compulsive gambling, and other issues. Fortunately, this is an issue we can effectively address with technology and regulation, rather than with a "feel good" un-Constitutional prohibition. America is far better off with effective regulation than with a prohibition that relies on banks to snoop through our financial transactions and Internet service providers to snoop through our Internet usage history.

Further, I concurred completely with Radley Balko of Reason Magazine (and a regular Foxnews.com contributor) in that what Americans do in their own homes with their own money is their own business. As a limited-government conservative in the tradition of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, I am distressed by the amount of government intrusion in our daily lives. I think many Americans feel the same way. In fact, it pains me to see our party acting as the agent of big government. I imagine you will consider the validity of Mr. Balko’s points relative to our freedoms and liberties, as I know you are a man who believes in these core American values regardless of your personal opinions concerning Internet poker.

Speaking of Mr. Balko, I was perplexed by your question to him concerning Ross Boatman and his biography on the FullTilt Poker Web site. You seemed very concerned that, as a youth, Mr. Boatman played poker with his brother at the kitchen table, likely for pennies, baseball cards, or valueless chips used simply to keep score. Certainly you were not suggesting passing federal legislation to prevent brothers from playing poker at the kitchen table, were you? I certainly hope not, but one never knows, given recent Congressional history. Were you suggesting that Mr. Boatman was playing on the Internet with his brother when he was twelve? Aside from the age verification software present on all online gaming sites, certainly you understand no site ever permitted more than one player from the same IP address to play in the same poker game, due to collusion. I assume you do, as you claim expertise in this area. Also, as Mr. Boatman is in his 40s, he would have been twelve back in the pre-Internet 1970s. Anyway, regardless of the point you were trying to make, fortunately for Mr. Boatman this was prior to the current era of big government Republicanism. Also fortunate for Mr. Boatman, he grew up in England, where poker is not seen as something the national government has any business trying to prevent its citizens from enjoying. As such, he was able to play poker for pennies at his kitchen table with his brother without federal intrusion.

As for the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, you noted that it does not make any gambling illegal that was not already illegal. Rather, it provides legal mechanisms for enforcement of existing state and federal gambling laws. Well, Internet poker is not illegal under existing federal law. As for state laws, very few states have outlawed Internet poker. Conversely, the vast majority of states permit online “games of skill” (such as the money skill games on yahoo.com and other sites that are not affected by UIGEA), and I think we can agree that professional players like Doyle Brunson are certainly skilled. It seems that if states wished to ban Internet poker, it seems they would have done so in an unambiguous fashion…especially if they wished to have the federal government enforce it.

HR 2046 provides real regulation, rather than a porous prohibition. A regulated Internet gambling environment will facilitate age verification and collection of federal and state taxes. It will also reduce any potential vulnerability of gambling Web sites to being used for money laundering, drug trafficking, or terrorist financing. With regulation, potential problems can be controlled without taking freedoms from Americans. After all, Russians and Eastern Europeans can gamble online; it seems the U.S. should trust its citizens at least as much as Russia trusts theirs, right?

Proponents of online gambling prohibition often mention endorsements UIGEA received from some in the religious community, some family groups, some financial services groups and some professional sports organizations. I hope you’ll consider the fact that these groups do not necessarily represent the majority of voters in our nation (or even the majority of Alabama Republicans). As for religious and family groups, there is no prohibition against gambling in the Bible, as was noted at the hearing. As a Christian, I personally find it offensive that some in the religious community are willing to give away our freedoms in pursuit of a goal not even defined in the Bible. As for financial services groups, some credit card issuers may like UIGEA (due only to the risk of losing players refusing to pay up), but I do not believe banks wish to be the enforcers of UIGEA. As a result, I think you’ll find financial services groups to be net losers as a result of UIGEA. Finally, I believe the concerns of the major professional sports organizations you mentioned relate only to sports betting. As HR 2046 permits them to opt out, this concern has been addressed.

In closing, I urge you to reconsider your strong opposition to allowing Americans to make their own decisions concerning playing poker in their own homes via the Internet. Online gambling will continue to exist with or without the participation of the United States. We’re losing our opportunity to control the games via regulation as well as the opportunities for U.S. companies to operate the games both domestically and internationally. This is costing America jobs and tax revenue.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
TheEngineer

TheEngineer

Sen. Bill Frist took a once-proud limited-government majority party and helped turn it into a big government, big spending, nanny-statist minority party, where Democrats look like small-government proponents in comparison. Frist's most egregious offense was in ramming the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act through the Senate by adding it to the Safe Ports Act, thereby using the power of the federal government to censor the Internet and to force banks and Internet service providers to spy on the American people in case we're--gasp!--playing poker with our own money in our own homes on the Internet. Oh, the horror. Actually, the horror is that the Republican party became the party of big government.

Frist wrecked the party and the limited government movement. I’m glad he’s gone.

TheEngineer

To all you kind-hearted folks who wish to protect me from myself by telling me how to spend my own money, I respectfully ask you to mind your own business. It's my money, my computer, and my Internet connection. Thank you.

Smoky the Clown

"If you create a free market for wolves, you will precipitate a slaughter for the lambs."

Weston, you sound like a full-fledged Communist. I honestly hate to say something so potentially slanderous, but your post smacks of protectionism and nanny-state thinking. Your reasoning for supporting this ban could be used to justify any control on individual market rights.

Why are so many so opposed to freedom of contract?

tangled

Internet Gambling is a sensitive area of society, and government has a legitimate role to play there. That is why this activity should be regulated. That way problem gambling can be addressed and those who can use the product responsibly will have a measure of freedom to do so.

If Internet gambling is not regulated, it will still exist, and all the problems that it causes will not be treated.

lonewolf

What's with you Bible-thumping control freaks trying to tell this conservative I can't play poker on the Net. I hope Big Brother raids and shuts down your nightly bingo games. Don't you hypocrites know that is gambling also?

David Who Is A Voting Poker Player

I find it disturbing that we continually hear from the halls of Congress that we are a nation of laws, and now that a lawful ruling we do not like as a government happens, we choose to ignore it (WTO ruling).

What is the USTR and government's position? Well, we will negotiate a settlement with the countries we are going to violate the law with and pay them off?

The cost? The European communities want $15 billion per year, every year, in trade deals against American companies.

So, Congressman/Senator, what are you going to tell your constituent whose company will be put at a disadvantage and has to close or lay off employees?

Ah my friend, I banned online poker. Sorry, but that is a price some will pay. I am sorry you cannot pay your mortgage, but I banned online poker.

Oh, by the way, in November please remember to vote for me. I did ban online poker.

give poker a chance

I agree with everyone's post, as we work hard for our pay check and should have a right to spend our money the way we want. I see this as, if our government can't tax us on Internet poker, it doesn't want us to play with our own money.

This has nothing to do with trying to regulate us. Funny how the government wants to protect us but keeps putting out more lottery games for us to buy. In every gas station I go, there are $1, $5, and $10 scratch-offs and Lotto. So what's the difference if I spend my $5 relaxing in my house after work playing a game, where I actually have a chance to win--unlike 5-million-to-1 Lotto.

Adam

Every argument by the gambling is bad, ban it ASAP crowd, centers on one thing: Gambling is harmful to the public.

Government sponsored lotteries are also harmful. Are they banned? No. So is horse racing. Is it banned? No. Hypocritical. At one point, dancing and rock 'n' roll were thought to be dangerous to society. Please, gambling is not harmful. I am sure there are those who take it to the extreme, but they are the exception, not the rule. They should not affect me and my right to play for pennies in my own home. Once again, the extremists have overacted, and wish to have the government baby-sit me and the way I live my life.

Please get out of my life, leave me alone, and quit telling me what I am allowed and not allowed to do. It is none of your or this government's business. It is not your moral obligation.

Those who seek to ban gambling do more harm than good. During Prohibition, alcohol became very unsafe to consume. Internet gambling needs to be regulated. People are going to do it anyway. Why not make it safe, able to keep out minors, watchful of the rare problem gambler, and taxed? Regulate it.

Derek

Debbie, Weston, et al,
Quit telling me what to do with my life and my money.

CB, I lived in Las Vegas for years. The idea that I would go to an "unscrupulous" bookie over a licensed and regulated casino is ridiculous.

TheEngineer

I just read an article about the "obesity epidemic." I suppose you folks who wish to ban people from choosing to play poker online because you think you know what's best for everyone else will wish to ban fast food as well.

jd

It's amazing the USA bans gambling, but not the illegals who cross our border. Folks that have money like I do, don't need government intrusion to tell me how to spend my money. It is amazing that I pay taxes and still don't own the right to spend my money as I see fit. Is the government banning subprime loans?

Russ Hawkins

I think Internet gambling is a threat to the children, and we should lead by example and make it illegal. I think teaching our children how to drink and drive and negotiate with a hooker are what we should be focusing on.

Zach

The real issue here is the hypocrisy of the U.S. government. It bans Internet gambling yet allows Internet gambling on horse racing? The only reason is not some moral value that gambling on horses is somehow better than playing poker. No, it is because the lobbyists for horse racing gave a lot of money to keep horse racing legal on the Internet. So don't make this a moral argument; it is a money argument. Therefore, Internet gambling should be legal, taxed, and regulated.

Levi L

We in the United States already have enough freedoms. Why add online gambling to the list?

yahboohoo

I can buy a book in a bookstore 15 minutes from my house. I can buy a book online. I can play poker in a casino 15 minutes from my house. But it's a federal crime to play poker at home? Every objection offered in opposition to online gaming can be answered by legalizing, taxing, and regulating the industry.

G. Clark

Danny,
Actually I'm a dentist from New Mexico. Thank you for the back-handed compliment. I'm also a volunteer and receive no compensation. You are right that I do have an agenda. It is hugely overt: to educate and lobby to help stop the expansion of gambling in the U.S. I may know a little more about Internet gambling than you think. NCALG has worked with Congress for eight years to get an Internet gambling prohibition bill in place.

Goodness, goodness: "Constitution and God-given liberty" equated with the ability to get fleeced on the Internet. Can you actually say that without blushing?

Again, all societies draw lines of the acceptable and unacceptable. There are people in those societies who disagree with those lines. We've heard from a couple of dozen who disagree with the line Congress drew on Internet gambling last year. Many people disagree with the prohibition and criminalization of prostitution. Many libertarians argue for the right to dispense cocaine in vending machines. Danny and others in this debate seem to think that the U.S. Constitution is hanging by a thread because Congress drew a line that keeps them from Internet gambling.

Okay, you don't agree with UIGEA, but trumpeting that the Constitutional sky is falling because you can't gamble on the Internet is just plain silly. The most compelling and logical argument we've heard in this debate for Internet gambling was by the man who was too medically compromised to go to a casino. At least he didn't wrap himself in the flag to promote his argument.

AlanW

The argument against online gaming is extremely weak. We can't run around banning everything that is harmful to some people, when the majority can enjoy it responsibly. It's a similar argument with freedom of speech--the principle of defending others' freedom of speech, even if you do not agree with them.

kdog

"We in the United States already have enough freedoms. Why add online gambling to the list?"

I sincerely hope this is sarcasm, Levi. If it isn't, wow, just wow.

Now personally, although I smoke cigarettes, drink socially, tried various drugs in my youth, and enjoy playing poker and an occasional sports wager, I have somehow made it to age 55 as a normal, responsible tax-paying American citizen. And I am thoroughly sick and tired of my government trying to protect me from myself.

Jay Cohen

To G Clark:
You are grossly misinformed. There was no switching of the U.S. schedules. The original panel found that the U.S. had made a commitment in the remote gaming area. That decision was later upheld by the WTO Appellate Body.

In both instances, it was based on the same schedule the U.S. spent years developing. I'm sure they had hundreds of people look it over. It was no oversight on the part of the U.S. At the time, the U.S. viewed itself as potentially one of the largest exporters of gambling services in the world, so they left it in the schedule. Many other countries opted out. You can be sure every schedule was reviewed by the U.S.

The U.S. position in the WTO matter is not based on morality; it's pure protectionism. As for states' rights, the WTO views the U.S. as one country, and if it happens in one state, it happens in all states. If that view of the U.S. didn't suit the U.S., it shouldn't have signed and ratified the treaty. Also, the treaty calls on the U.S. to abide by its decisions whether they agree with them or not.

If you are against all gambling, I can respect that opinion. I don't agree with it. I personally think adults should be allowed to choose how they spend their disposable income.

Finally, there is no scientific evidence that online gambling is any more addictive than land-based gambling. And I can't remember the last time an online sports book or casino gave a customer a free drink through its computer to distort his or her judgment.

Jay Cohen

Me

If the government really wants to outlaw all forms of gambling, it should start with the lottery. Its odds of people winning equal those of being struck by lightning for 30 days in a row, yet the government allows this to go on. Think about how much money is wasted trying to regulate this when legalizing it would bring about so much revenue that the government and states would see a windfall they never dreamed of. If you legalize and tax gambling, you can cut back on the law enforcement keeping track of this, and you make a ton of money from the tax money brought in. People are going to gamble whether it is legal or illegal. It's sort of like speeding--posting a speed limit only has people exceeding it all the time. It's time the Jesus freaks stopped ruining this country. Just because they lead miserable and repressed lives doesn't mean we all have to. Live your boring humdrum life and let those of us who want to do what we want to do alone.

Fred P

One of the worst laws the government has ever passed. Why allow us to bet on horses, sports, or poker in land-based casinos and not in my underwear in the comfort of my home?

Legalize all forms of gaming, regulate it, tax it, and learn from it. The religious right will run bingo and Monte Carlo nights and frown upon me enjoying myself at home. States will sell lottery tickets to those on welfare rolls but tell me I can't make a sports wager or play poker in my home. Repeal the law, and let us decide how we want to play with our money and free time.

Keith

Once again we have the U.S. government whining and crying because the rest of the world will not bow down and do as it says. Everything is just fine as long as the politicians in office can bully everyone else around till they back down, but as soon as the world stands up to them, they threaten to pull out of the WTO.

The United States of America is and always will be in my opinion the best country there is, but I am so sick and tired of the way it is being run and the way all those big shots in office have their heads up their ass's about trying to control my life and tell me what is best for me. It is about time they take control of their own lives; it's like the saying "People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." The vast majority of them are either drunks, dopers, or cheating on their spouses. I don't understand how they can honestly think they know better for me than I do.

TerryK

People think the Republicans lost the House and Senate in the elections last November because of the war in Iraq. Without a doubt, that's part of the reason, but their passage of the UIGEA bill was the kicker that did them in. Telling millions of American citizens what they can and can't do with their money and free time isn't going to get you re-elected. What they did was get millions of online gamblers and poker players stirred up who normally don't vote, like me, get up off our butts and vote in anybody but Republicans. And as a result, those extra votes were the deciding factor in a lot of these races that were decided by one or two percentage points, a mere thousands of votes. I would think these politicians have learned a lesson from this and realize that us online gamers represent a significant percentage of the U.S. population and therefore a large say in policies. As a result, I feel confident there will be regulated online gaming in the near future, particularly after Bush and his idiots leave office. Let's hope these new leaders will know better and not dictate what I can and can't do with my free time. If not, well, we'll go ahead and vote them out, too.

DBass

"Goodness, goodness: 'Constitution and God-given liberty' equated with the ability to get fleeced on the Internet."

I've been ripped off more times on eBay (twice) than by any online casino or sports book (never). I've made multiple cash-outs and have always received them in a timely manner (and paid my taxes on the income). I'm not sure who is getting "fleeced," so perhaps you'd like to edit your statement.

If what you meant to say was, "Casino table games and slot machines are always geared to give the house a greater edge and over the long-run, simply aren't profitable for the player," I would completely agree with you. It's why I play poker and bet on sports. If after saying that your intention is to ban it for anyone who still wants to play, my agreement ends.

The level of arrogance among these comments is astonishing. "We already have enough freedoms." Oh, thanks for being there to think for me. I appreciate it.

"And poker is not a game of skill." Hmm, my bank account says different.

"You could never drink or take drugs equal to the amount of money spent in a day on gambling." You've clearly never spent a day drinking and taking drugs with me.

"The WTO didn't try to force pornography to be open on the Web in Muslim countries." Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure Muslim countries don't have government-sponsored pornography. "Babes in Burkas," anyone? (Get it? We allow online lotteries and sport-wagering; we are home to thousands of land-based casinos. We can't have a "moral opposition" to gambling.)

And on and on.

To close, I can fully understand why people are opposed to gambling. There is a segment of our society that doesn't do well when gambling is introduced. In fact, it's the same way I feel about organized religion. That being said, I'll make you all a deal: Outlaw religion in all forms, and I'll give up online poker for the betterment of society and all.

pCubed

I like to support my arguments with facts. To claim that this is not a conservative moral issue is a bold-faced lie. If you were to look at the Gallup Polls numbers, you'd see the vast majority of people, 63%, find gambling morally acceptable. If you were to look at the breakdown by liberals, moderates, and conservatives, you'd see it is only the socially conservative who are in disagreement with the vast majority of Americans. I understand the poll numbers are for gambling, but the numbers for online gambling are likely to be very similar. http://www.galluppoll.com/content/?ci=27757

Chuck

The hypocrisy of the U.S. government is being exposed for the world to see. The U.S. government promotes the lottery but tells the WTO it is against gambling on moral grounds. What a bunch of crap. Prohibition doesn't work.

Andrew Earl

I am a UK citizen and bet online in some of my spare time (poker and casino mainly). I would like to share a perspective on the ban from outside the U.S., if I may. Frankly, we find it pretty incredible what is going in the U.S. for many reasons, but mainly for the hypocrisy of the U.S. position. Here's why:

1. The argument that online gaming is somehow evil and run by unscrupulous operators is clearly ludicrous. If that were the case, do you honestly think that these firms would have been vetted by institutions like the London Stock Exchange, had blue-chip banks and law firms advising them, and Visa and Master Card processing their transactions? Imagine if these were narcotics companies--you think they would have got the same treatment? You have got to be joking.

2. If U.S. people are concerned about the moral aspect of gaming, then why haven't they banned land-based gaming and the whole of Vegas? And why are state lotteries promoted so much? And why is online betting allowed for horse- and dog-racing? I think we all know the answer, don't we (the WTO, EU, Canada, India, and Japan certainly know the answer to name but a few major nations annoyed at the U.S. actions)? It is simply good old protectionism--not prohibition. The U.S. wants to restrict online gaming, because it doesn't generate enough revenue from it. It's as simple as that. The commentator who made the reference about some other countries trying to ban it is correct. Some countries in Europe have tried to do the same. However, what he doesn't point out is that the European Court of Justice has seen through the baloney arguments put up by these governments and is now forcing them to open their markets up to properly licensed operators in other jurisdictions.

3. The fact is that the government doesn't like the competition, and why not when the state lottery pay-outs to the consumer are around 50%, but private sites pay out on average 95% back to the player? Wow, the government must really care about the consumer, eh?

4. We always admired the U.S. for its perceived freedoms and open marketplace, the "land of the free." This action completely flies in the face of that. And actions against some of our publicly listed operators? How would you like it if we arrested the directors of Google or eBay for infringement of laws in the UK (e.g. copyright violation)? As one major UK newspaper put it recently, "...and these guys are supposed to be our friends?"

5. The best way of protecting individuals is by licensing and regulating the activity. It is obvious the U.S. action to date has achieved the opposite effect as the market has simply moved away from all the transparent operators to those who are opaque, with all the publicly listed operators having ceased accepting U.S. players once the UIGEA was enacted. In the UK, operators are now licensed and regulated, and licenses can be recognized from other jurisdictions, but those jurisdictions must have been able to demonstrate the same high standards of control that are required of UK-based operators.

6. And finally, I find it quite incredible that a legislative process can allow an unrelated piece of legislation to be tacked on to a must-pass bill in the final minutes of Congress to get enacted--particularly when polls prior to the passing of the act showed that three quarters of Americans were against such a ban. What kind of legislative process is that?

Usually Skeptical

What an interesting exchange of views.

What I found very striking was the very different views of the two gambling addiction experts; Mr. Guy Clark and Mr. John Stansfield. New Zealand feels it is important to take steps to regulate gambling in such a way as to allow non-problem gamblers to gamble and create safeguards to stop problem gamblers from harming themselves. The U.S. Congress tried a quick fix in the middle of the night, burying this law into a port security bill, all without much fanfare.

Further, both the former gaming operator's and John Pappas' of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), views were much closer to the views of John Stansfield than those of Mr. Guy Clark's of the two gambling addiction experts.

A former gaming operator, the leader of the Poker Players Alliance, and the head of the world's largest gambling addiction agency all agree?

There exists the technology to identify and stop problem gamblers from gambling online while no such technology exists for real-world gamblers. Both the pro-gambling interested parties say they want all the safeguards to be enforced that Mr. John Stansfield says are required to stop problem gamblers. What is the problem here?

I did a little reading up on this UIGEA "gambling ban" Congress crafted. It doesn't ban online gambling at all. It restricts U.S. citizens from using their U.S. bank accounts to deposit into a U.S.-based gambling operation. U.S. citizens can still gamble online; they just have no protection under U.S. law in doing so online.

In fact, the net effect of this carefully crafted piece of Congressional legislation seems to be to push online gambling further away from the one problem-gambling expert's solution than ever and further into the hands of even less regulation rather than more. I think I was in civics class the day they said Congress was there to find solutions. Yes, I know that was a long time ago, and I am now old enough to know that is only an ideal very often achieved by modern legislators.

Before this UIGEA law, a U.S. citizen could at least count on U.S. banking laws, secure money transfers, and was dealing with some stock-exchanged traded companies. Now a gambler has to use a middle man to transfer his money online. All this has done is increased the cost and lessened any possible sensible regulation by U.S. authorities. My understanding, since that day in civics class, was Congress loved spending time crafting an ever-increasingly tangled web of laws and regulations. All the anarchists, libertarians, and unrestricted Internet for anything all the time won this one.

The only people who lost out were the reported 15 million Americans who play online poker. Well, and the poor people who seemed to have missed out on the reported $3.5 billion in annual uncollected tax revenue. As a businessman concerned about what the WTO, GATT, and the EU trade sanctions might do to my service business by allowing foreign access to currently protected markets and ones now regulated mostly on the state level, I am appalled at the possible ramification to my business. But I'm almost close enough to retirement. I do have about 350 employees who are not so lucky.

What a way to run a country. It seems Congress' solution is at least three steps in the wrong direction. What a shock. My personal bottom line? The RNC will not be getting any money out of me this cycle. Nor if I can help it will they get any from any of my friends.

Mr. Pappas, the check is in the mail.

random

Oh, Mr. Clark...

Why oh why would you reply to these comments? Aren't you aware that a demagogue should never try to face the people, because his replies will never be logical or coherent enough for a solid argument?

"Again, all societies draw lines of the acceptable and unacceptable. There are people in those societies who disagree with those lines."

Hence you can just ignore them and draw that line yourself, right? Because obviously not being paid to conduct your own personal crusade makes you morally superior and having a few authoritarian types who think that the government should police what people do in the privacy of their own homes gives you the support to dictate your will. Right?

"We've heard from a couple of dozen who disagree with the line Congress drew on Internet gambling last year."

Actually you've heard a very small sample of those who disagree. Don't pretend that just a couple dozen people in America don't agree with you. I don't see Americans thrilled by a government that pries into their private lives and personal choices. Or would you like to suggest that when it comes to gambling, Americans overwhelmingly prefer a nanny state?

Your claims that you're an expert on online gaming is equally preposterous. You worked for eight years to ban gambling, not study it. You're not some sort of gambling scholar who studies the phenomenon objectively. You're an activist who's only goal is to ban, crush, and destroy what catches your ire. After all, you don't trust gambling site owners because they have a vested interest in their agenda and incentive to be dishonest. Why should we trust you since you also have an agenda and incentive to be dishonest?

"Many people disagree with the prohibition and criminalization of prostitution."

And what does that have to do with gambling? The prohibition of prostitution is a religious law that has stalked the West for the last 300 years. Oh, and were you aware that brothels were okayed by the church in the 1300s and 1400s as a way to "keep men from homosexuality"? You might want to do some research.

"Many libertarians argue for the right to dispense cocaine in vending machines."

That's an outright, slanderous lie and you should be ashamed to sink to this sort of level. It's disgusting to see a grown man have to go so low in a pathetic attempt to prove his point by accusing people of something like that, with no proof whatsoever. I know that it's beneath a demagogue to seek proof for his words, but such slanderous commentary only makes you look like a maniacal liar who would stoop to any level to insult his opponents.

Don't talk about societal standards if you're not even willing to follow the basic societal norms for civilized debate. People will not bend to your whims or admire you if you smear them with filth. All you have done with your reply to these comments is confirm the initial impression I and many others got from your article; that you're an ignorant demagogue with a superiority complex, and incapable of making an argument without an ad hominem.

TheMathProf

I find it extremely ironic. I was watching TV (one of those poker shows) the other day, and these folks came on this one ad encouraging me to know my limit and to keep gambling entertainment.

And I used to play online for dimes and quarters until my state turned around and decided to tell me that my daily risk of about the price of a nighttime movie was dangerous, and that I needed to be protected from myself. I was also told that I was being kept from being a good family man by playing online poker, despite the fact that I could jump on for just half an hour or so.

But they told me that they weren't really prohibiting me from playing poker, because I could either:

(A) Play for free on the Internet, where the lack of an effective wagering system is similar to playing poker without any chips. "Uh, we can't bet, so just go ahead and turn another card." "But how do we fold?" "Uh..."

(B) Play for $3 and $6 down at my local casino, playing way above my limits and easily exchanging hands sums in the three and four digits. I thought this was about entertainment?

Not to mention that the former really truly does keep me away from family--that is, unless I bring them to the casino with me.

You really have to question whether any of the beauracrats who makes these laws think about the practical effects of the laws that they make, and how they influence Joe Everyman, who finds out about them and tries to abide by them.

DY

Stop controlling what we do, stop taking away our rights and liberty, and give me back the good old USA. Internet gambling will never die no matter how you ban it.

DY

To anyone who say poker is not a skill game, you're the world's dumbest person, and I will prove it by playing you one on one, and let's see how I will beat you using skills instead of luck.

Mr. Smith

It is just disgraceful that a few politicians would ignore the will of 93% of the American people who in poll after poll say the U.S. government should not make online gambling illegal. A few deeply conservative politicians decided they could get a few extra votes on this issue from uninformed conservative voters, so they press it. The continuing war on Americans' personal freedoms by the current government is an utter disgrace.

And I am a Republican who aligns with conservative beliefs. The position of the U.S. government on Internet gambling is complete idiocy.

Vova

I am Communist and support those who want to prohibit everything that is not red. Gambling is green as a dollar, so let's dump it.

tangled

The use of laws against rape and murder as a justification for banning online gaming is bone-chilling hypocrisy, since it is the prohibitionists who are trying to force their will on others. I am a hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding citizen. How dare you violate the privacy of my home and tell me what I can and cannot do there with my own money?

Your conduct is predatory and perverted. Shame on you. Fall down on your knees and repent your wickedness.

JV

This isn't about protecting people. What about the people who eat fast food four times a day and are obese? Are we banning fast food? What about the people who are addicted to shopping and have thousands and thousands of dollars in credit cards debt? Are we banning credit cards or shopping? What about the people who like to drive fast (the fastest speed limit I have seen anywhere in the U.S. is 70)? Why do we keep allowing cars that can go faster? There are people addicted to the Internet social networks. Are we banning them? No.

The bottom line is a small percentage of the population can be addicted to anything you can think of. You won't help these people by banning something but rather by identifying them and getting them the help they need. The only reason online gambling is a big deal is because the government can get a piece of the pie.

I don't gamble online. Even though I enjoy playing poker online, I have never wagered any money. I do it for entertainment purpose only.

Dave

I am a Republican as is my wife. I wrote to the National Party and expressed my extreme displeasure with what has happened to the party. I am now an embarrassed Republican and will be voting for Democrats in the next election. My God forgive me. I think that the tens of thousands of loud-mouthed right-wing extremists will be put in their place by the hundred of thousands of quiet Republicans in each state. I was for business, low taxes, freedoms, and liberties. The unbelievable UIGEA Frist/Kyl bill was the last straw. I am at this time frightened for our country and the direction it is headed. Fight for your freedoms, people.

Weston

Joe was concerned that I did not footnote my statement that "Probably half the money lost on gambling in our country, whether lottery, casino, or online is lost by people who have become addicted to a game." Lots of documentation is available of studies showing such figures. In 1999, Philip Cook, co-author of Selling Hope, probably the best objective study done on lotteries, cited a study at the National Gambling Impact Study Commission in Washington to the effect that some 5% of players in a given lottery game were buying more than half the tickets. Similar studies exist on casino play.

People opposed to Web gambling are not trying to stop people from playing poker. It's about commercial gambling--whether businesses ought to have the right to use the Web to put an addictive product in every home in America.

cincy_

"The U.S. government's obligation to protect its citizens from a toxic, addictive product exceeds its responsibility to please the gnomes at the WTO."

Appease? Once you sign a treaty, you don't "appease" people; you fulfill a responsibility. Your bosses don't "appease" you by paying you; they honor the contract that they signed. The "protection" has to occur before signing the treaty, and not after, and not in limited circumstances that you choose. Again, your bosses can't protect themselves by asking you to work on Sunday unless it's in the original contract, can they? The bottom line is that once you sign something, you honor it--unless you lack the moral integrity to do so.

G Clark

Jay, NCALG had a couple of meetings with the U.S. trade representatives to WTO regarding the positioning of gambling in the entertainment category. They disagree with you. You don't even seem to blink when you point out that the WTO can override state laws. Are you really comfortable with that? Actually, there are studies that show Internet gambling is much more addictive than most forms of gambling. A 2002 study by the University of Connecticut of outpatients in its medical and dental clinics found that about 70% of those who gambled on the Internet would be classified as problem or pathological gamblers. Online poker wasn't a big thing then, so the results aren't an exact picture of conditions today, and the patient pool was not perfectly representative of the population at large, being mostly college students, but the study is certainly alarming. For those who claim there are no studies documenting the increase in crime, bankruptcy, drug addiction, and spouse and child abuse caused by gambling, log onto our Web site at www.ncalg.org and surf around a bit. There are dozens of scientific studies documenting our statements.

Geno

I'm a hard-working, voting member of this great country, who happens to enjoy playing cards on the Internet. I will retain my freedom to choose what I will do with my money in the freedom of my home on my own Internet connection. I must give credit to the right-wing religious groups; they have organized and used the governmental system to advance their views. I don't like the way the UIGEA was forced upon us, but that's our system. The religious right isn't the majority, just for the moment better organized. In response, I'm motivated to fight them, tooth and nail, on this issue, and I must add on many other social issues that they espouse that I don't agree with. There are many of these nanny-state, big government, better-than-thou issues and I won't open those cans of worms here. Those of us who wish to stop the erosion of our rights need to organize and use the system to our advantage. I agree with TerryK, that our voice was heard in the last election and our voice can become much louder. People: Get up, fight the religious fanatics, and take control of your rights. Vote, talk to others about registering to vote. Write your representatives and join in with organizations who support your views. There are grass roots campaigns that can be significant. Contribute some cash support, and we can do it.

TheEngineer

"For those who claim there are no studies documenting the increase in crime, bankruptcy, drug addiction, and spouse and child abuse caused by gambling..."

I claim it. You can't prove these issues were "caused" by anything but the person who committed the crimes. Liberals like you always blame outside factors, like guns, media, bad parenting, and gaming, rather than blaming individuals. Anyway, most of us don't subscribe to big-government control over Americans to keep them from committing future crimes. We trust Americans to do the right thing.

random

Mr. Clark, you claim to have scientific studies backing you, but when you say that a 2002 study finds a 70% addiction rate in online gamblers, forgive those of us with deductive skills to frown and point out that these numbers can't be correct. Or sane.

How come standard gambling legalized in the U.S. has an addiction rate of about 14%, but online gambling has a 70% addiction rate? A two-fold or even a three-fold increase is believable. A little high, a little surprising but somewhat believable. But a five-fold jump? That's beyond suspicious.

Your entire theory relies on how you categorize pathological gamblers. Since you can manipulate what you call or classify as a problem gambler at will (the studies you try to present on your site don't present your exact definitions or other vital details for confirming a study's objectivity), you could call someone who gambles more then once a month on a $10 lottery ticket the equivalent of someone who flushed his entire life savings down the drain in Vegas. Other studies simply examine the behaviors of people who already have a gambling problem and as a result have nothing to do with your point in a classic example of a red herring.

I find the fact that you've tried to jam supposedly viable scientific studies only after demeaning, insulting, and lying about the intentions of those who find your overreach into people's choices disturbing and based on shoddy evidence and questionable motives, quite telling. You're using outdated and very purposefully vague and misleading stats as a last resort. If you had viable data that prove your exact words, you would've put it front and center with all the information needed to verify objectivity and accuracy.

GB

The U.S. government makes the rules for everyone to follow, but it doesn't have to follow them.

Cincy_

Why are people talking about "studies"? Why do people think that their study trumps my rights? It doesn't. Also, if we are to talk about the addictive side of gambling, maybe a study on how the states are addicted to the revenue generated from gambling would be useful.

Patrick Fleming

Studies with samples so flawed that even Mr. Clark has to acknowledge their problems have no usefulness in this debate.

A little calm reflection would do much better: Internet gambling has been available in the U.S. for almost 10 years, if it were as addictive as Mr. Clark would have us believe, why can he find no evidence of tragedy beyond a handful of individual cases? Equally so, Internet gambling has been available in Europe for just as long and continues unabated there--so where is the evidence of wide scale social problems that must have occurred if Mr. Clark is correct?

That is not to say there is no negative impact from legal online gambling, as others have noted there are people who develop problems for anything. Yet Mr. Clark has at no time ever even tried to debate the merits of regulation vs. prohibition with regard to these people. That's because prohibitionists never do that; they know full well they will lose that debate so obviously that the only way to advance their argument is to make emotional appeals based on the hurt of the unfortunate few. That is indeed the debate tactic of a demagogue, and it is also stupid social policy.

This debate goes to the gamblers, no question.

College Addict

I went to college years ago, and the debt from trying to do that almost put me under, and certainly limited my life in many ways, but just because my life got messed up from trying to go to college doesn't mean I think going to college should be illegal. I am well aware that many, many people go to college and have no financial problems because of it at all. It would have been great if the government had tried to protect me from myself, but I take responsibility for making the choices I did, for trying to buy something I had no business thinking I could afford.

Gambling, on the other hand, has only made me money in life. Maybe not a huge amount, but gambling has been a positive force in my life financially, while college almost ruined me financially.

I find it interesting that Republicans want to save people from themselves in areas where intelligence matters, such as poker and sports gambling, but feel no desire to try to save people from themselves in areas where intelligence is irrelevant, such as lottery gambling. The only conclusion I can make from that, which is supported by my anecdotal observations in life, is that the reason Republicans want to ban gambling where intelligence matters is because Republicans lose their money in that kind of gambling, whereas with pure-luck forms of gambling, they are not at a disadvantage.

G Clark

Mr. TheEngineer,
Several contributors to this debate have accused us of being Communists, right-wing fanatics, and religious bigots, and now you define us in the "liberal" camp. I guess being hard to pigeon-hole is a good thing.

If you look around, I think you'll find liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who are opposed to Internet gambling, as well as many who are in favor of it.

Except for calling the bureaucrats at the WTO "gnomes," I have resisted calling anyone in this debate names. I have no animosity toward anyone who gambles on the Internet or elsewhere. However, I think the purveyors are predators who care not a whit for the damage they cause countless numbers of people.

G Clark

random,
For fear of boring everyone in this debate, I didn't want to spend a lot of time on the methodology of the University of Connecticut study on gambling, or on the intricacies of gambling addiction categorization, but you can examine all those details by looking up the study in the Psychology of Addictive Behaviors Journal:
http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/adb16176.pdf

Is that "front and center" enough? You asked for it.

TheEngineer

From Republican presidential candidate Duncan Hunter's Web site, at http://www.gohunter08.com/inner.asp?z=4

13. Gambling:

I believe gambling is a serious problem in today’s society, every much as addictive and destructive as alcohol and illegal drugs. As a result, this problem is equally deserving of as much attention in terms of federal policy. Unfortunately, those individuals who spend most of their money gambling are the ones who have the least amount to lose, often choosing to gamble instead of taking care of their families.

I also believe Internet gambling has become a problem as serious as traditional casino gambling. Law enforcement agencies have indicated that this activity serves as a vehicle for money laundering activities that can be exploited by terrorists and organized crime. It is for this reason that I cosponsored H.R. 4777 (Goodlatte-VA) which will amend federal law and bring the current prohibition against wireline interstate gambling up to date with the Internet and other new technologies. At the same time, the bill will provide additional tools to law enforcement to combat illegal gambling.

What a joke. He's limited government until he finds something he wants. Then, the sky's the limit.

First of all, his position is foolishness. Drugs are very addictive. Gaming is at most addictive to 1% people, and technology can be used to keep those 1% offline via various exclusion and detection programs. Unfortunately, this won't work under Hunter's big-government prohibition plan (which involves snooping in people's bank accounts and Internet usage histories).

The money laundering charge is equally ludicrous. This is easily controlled, and it's proven. Check out http://financialserv.edgeboss.net/wmedia/financialserv/hearing060807.wvx and http://www.house.gov/apps/list/hearing/financialsvcs_dem/ht060807.shtml . It's nothing but a red herring. Hunter simply doesn't like Internet poker, so he thinks it should be banned for everyone. That's not my definition of a small-government conservative.

STC

Mr. Clark,
First, let me thank you for your patience. I'm sure that the overall response to your statement has been somewhat overwhelming.

But I am curious as to at what point you believe that government should cease from getting involved in a private, contractual arrangement in which the purveyor is potentially a predator who doesn't care about the damage caused. Is there any such point in your mind?

dorethawsp

Nice one, GClark. You cited a study that evaluated all of 31 people who had gambled on the Internet.

Jay Cohen

Dr. Clark,
I don't know what the U.S. schedule said before I was involved with this WTO matter. I have been intimately involved with it since 2002. (Google my name and Washington Post.) I can say with 1,000% certainty that the U.S. schedule that was one of the foundations of Antigua's case was the same schedule in 2002 as it was when the case was filed in 2003 and when it was appealed in 2004.

Does the WTO treaty trample states' rights? Yes, it does. The WTO views each country as one entity. If it happens in one tiny corner of a country, it happens in that country. It doesn't matter whether or not I think that is a good idea. That's what the President and Congress signed off on when they agreed to the treaty.

As to the studies, I am not a study collector. It doesn't surprise me that you can pull out some study. I am sure if I looked I could find another. It doesn't matter.

The point is, if gambling is so harmful, why not ban it everywhere? Maybe that's what you would like to see? It's just hypocritical to point to one type of gambling as evil and another as good because the state gets a piece. How about this, why do they allow alcohol to be served within 100 yards of gaming? Not only do they serve it, they give it away free.

Sports gambling holds less than 5% of the amount wagered year after year. Blackjack holds less than 2%. The state lotteries hold between 20% and 50%. The higher holds tend to be in states that offer no other gaming.

What about gambling on the stock market? That's gambling too. Don't believe me, fine. What about those people who trade options and futures? How about cash settled S&P 500 Futures? Don't tell me that's not gambling.

If you don't like gambling, that's great. But it's not right for you to try to impose your choices on everyone else.

Antigua won the case. The USTR has finally stopped trying to spin it otherwise. Now it's just a matter of time before the U.S. allows Antigua some sort of access to the American market or faces billions in intellectual property sanctions. It's their choice.
--JC


TheEngineer

"If you look around, I think you'll find liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who are opposed to Internet gambling, as well as many who are in favor of it."

Not really. The opponents of Internet gaming are primarily big-government social conservative Republicans. Check out my analysis at https://pokerplayersalliance.org/news/newsandarticles_article.php?DID=237.

dorethawsp

GClark:
I wouldn't spend a lot of time on the methodology of that study either if I knew it had only studied 31 Internet gamblers, all of whom come from the same socioeconomic group.

Joel Rose

It is not just conservatives or Republicans or the religious who oppose Internet gambling. I am a liberal Democrat and an atheist, and I stand proudly with Dr. Clark and others who want to prevent the harm to our citizens that would surely result from extending an addictive product into every home in America on a 24/7 basis.

This is a product that, when used as directed, predictably ruins the lives of about 7% of the people who try it. (That percentage applies to casinos--do you really want to find out the hard way what the percentage would be for Internet gambling sites?) If this were any other product with the same track record, we'd ban it in a heartbeat.

How can any true progressive cast this issue solely in terms of his "right" to do whatever he wants, wherever he want, whenever he wants? That attitude is totally divorced from the concern for one's fellow man that has always been the hallmark of progressivism. Instead, it just screams "Me! Me! Me!" Stop and think for a moment about the people you know, and ask yourself which of them you'd be willing to sacrifice so that you can gamble a little more conveniently.

R FDR

We must not only curtail and prohibit online gambling but also roll back existing casino/slots gambling around the country.

The U.S. went through a similar gambling scourge in the late 1800s, and it got so bad economically and socially nationwide that states put in their constitutions prohibitions against such games of chance.

History will repeat itself if casinos continue to spread. We need legislators with integrity and guts to pass federal legislation that curtails, regulates, and controls this cancer.

This is not prohibition--there are still many other gambling opportunities, be they racing, lotteries, or interpersonal (poker). Just as we legislate against certain drugs (cocaine, heroin) but allow others (alcohol), so must we prohibit the crack cocaine of gambling--slots.

Dr. Lawrence Van Heusen

I believe that the transaction of ideas and information on the Internet should not be subject to regulation. However, transactions should be regulated, and online gambling helps no one except the offshore owners. Did you know that playing the stock market is a form of gambling (putting something of value at risk with the hope of gain--but the risk of complete loss)? That is why we have regulations for that as well.

Libertarian

The Internet gambling ban is one of the few laws that have made sense.

Responsible adults are not the problem and have no problems finding ways to gamble. Irresponsible adults need the protection the same as an alcoholic needs to stay out of bars.

As for the “most respected financial institutions,” get real. A fast buck is a fast buck, and their political bribery influence doesn't make them respected.

The law curbs possible financial flows to terrorists and will save many marriages and prevent many suicides.

As for what’s good in Vegas should be good in NY--well, that’s where state sovereignty comes in. This country isn’t composed of a subdivision into states, but a unification of them.
I, too, oppose government regulations covering morality. This is more than that. This law does not stop one from gambling. I expect my own representative government to have control, which it has shown it has.

The con argument is not against gambling; it’s pro common sense. The only ones opposed are the losers.

One can still do all you want in the privacy of your own home. Play all the poker you want if you have friends who enjoy a challenge. But in doing so, common sense tends to prevail, where it often loses out on the Internet.

AlanW

No one is denying that some people are harmed by casino or online gaming.
Some people have addictive personalities and will take anything to excess, be it food, drinking, drugs, or gambling.

But the main argument is about the rights of the majority to enjoy something responsibly.

Regulated gambling sites offer safeguards to protect vulnerable individuals, while allowing the majority to enjoy their hobby safely, whether hard-core poker players or granny enjoying a game of bingo.

But as other posters have stated, with the exemptions for lotteries, horse and dog racing, state gambling, etc., this looks more and more like sheer protectionism. I am not happy that billions of U.S. dollars could be be lost via the WTO because of this hypocritical stance.

M.S.

Let's say I decide to play online bingo or slots, and I go too far or become addicted. I spend my mortgage payment and lose the house. My spouse gets infuriated with me and we divorce. That is my mistake, my addiction, and my business. Why should my neighbor be told: "Look what happened to M.S. Now, we can't trust you not to do the same thing, so we are not going to let you play slots or bingo online. It's for your own good."

Same situation, but with food. I become addicted to chocolate cheesecake. I know I should eat it in moderation, but I cannot help myself. I eat it and I eat it. I become fat, up to 700 pounds because I ate too much cheesecake. So, now, I can't fit through my door, and we have to have the house remodeled to accommodate my extra large frame. We can't afford all these modifications and since we used our mortgage payment to knock a new hole in the front so I can squeeze through it, we lose the house. My spouse is now angry and disgusted with me. So we divorce. That is my mistake, my addiction, and my business. Why should my neighbor be told: "Look what happened to M.S. Now, we can't trust you not to do the same, so we are not allowing you to ever eat any cheesecake. It's for your own good."

When does it stop? Where are the lines drawn? When is it a person's responsibility to pay for his or her own mistakes, and not the fault of society/government/family/childhood/teachers/friends? When is it going to end?

If I tell my boss to take a long walk on a short pier, can I blame my being fired on the kid who told me that in 3rd grade? Or is it my fault, and I should have been more careful and controlled myself?

Don't tell me I (free and over 21) can't play a game online with my own money in the comfort of my own home that I worked for, on a PC I paid for and an ISP I pay for. With the precious little time to myself that I have--all because Joe and Suzie got a divorce when Joe could not control himself at partypoker.

Jeff

Clark is no expert. He has twisted the research from PAB. The Ladd & Petry study doesn't reveal a 70% addiction rate at all. That study didn't even use a community sample. Clark is misrepresenting this research, just as a review of his work reveals that he twists the facts that might be available to his position, rather than his position to the available facts. If this is how he does homework, I fear that we can't trust anything he says. While gambling is risky and might be a problem for some (about 1%), Clark is doing the debate a disservice with hyperbolic claims. He should resign his position, because he is hurting the anti-gambling cause that he represents. We will never have a viable debate when the participants mislead others to justify their ends. The issue is simple: If gambling causes addiction, why are so few people who gamble addicted?

Usually Skeptical

I did some reading on the New Zealand Problem Gambling site.

There was a study of New Zealand prison inmates, where they found a 100% correlation between those addicted to drugs and alcohol and those with gambling problems.

From other readings, it seems that no matter what the legal product, there is a good chance that about 2% of the population, because of their psychological make up, will abuse it.

I sure wish my services were more addictive, but such is life. I would imagine that 2% of my customers might buy more than they need. This sounds about right from my own life experiences. Back to civics class, is it really the job of Congress to make illegal the activities of 98% of the population in order to save 2% when there are other reasonable alternatives?

Mr. Pappas, I hope you get your share of those addicted to donating. According to the addicted gamblers studies, you might get upward of 40% of your donations from less than 5% of your donors, which also seems about correct in everyday politics. I know Congress would never study political donors and conclude that since a minority of their benefactors made up a majority of their war chest, they needed to be saved from themselves.

Back to work--have fun with this; I have to make a living. The things one gets involved with because of a flight delay.

Susan

The U.S. government's obligation to protect its citizens from a toxic, addictive product exceeds its responsibility to please recreational gamblers and the piranhas who make their living off both recreational gamblers and gambling addicts.

Offshore opportunists claim the U.S. can't control Internet gambling, so it should regulate and tax it. If it can't be controlled, then how could it be regulated or taxed responsibly?

Remember: The only ones who gain from gambling are the businessmen who run it.

Joe

GClark, you compare outlawing online poker to keeping cocaine out of vending machines. I will tell you as a father, I would have a completely different reaction if I came home and found my son playing online poker than snorting cocaine.

Steve

Although it is hard to police cyberspace, that does not mean potentially addictive and socially destructive activities should be legal there. Keep the ban. This is not Prohibition, which attempted to reach everywhere. The ban applies only to one sector of business, a sector that has the longest and hardest-to-regulate range.

G Rising

Call it anything you wish, but I am for this kind of governmental intervention. I have seen Internet gambling ruin the lives of a neighbor and his wife. We have been forced to accept casino gambling and state lotteries. That is more than enough.

Legispublius

I take a lot of issue with the gross stupidity and willingness to lie to the extreme Mr Clark takes in asserting some of his claims. I understand newspaper editors may want a pro and con on an editorial issue. But please use people who aren't stone-cold idiots and liars. The truth of the matter about illegal gambling spreading with legal gambling is ludicrous. Organized crime is kept alive almost entirely by sports betting.

Americans were betting on boxing, horses, and baseball long before Las Vegas came around. They still do less than 1% of the sports gambling business in America. And Mr. Clark stretches his idiocy to the farthest reaches when he omits talk of lotteries. The numbers racket (the mob lottery) was their biggest earner before Prohibition and alcohol. It doesn't exist anymore, and why? Because of state run lotteries. We could destroy organized crime gambling in stroke if we so chose. And they let you gamble on credit, then put the fear of death or injury in you to make you commit crimes. You talk about addicted gamblers committing crime to pay debts, but you fail to cite the biggest and most outrageous are always from people driven by mob collection thugs.

Another thing, people learn to gamble at home and church, not online or in casinos. Raffles, bingo, Vegas nights, parents' letting kids scratch off lotto cards. Gambling is instilled and practiced throughout the country. And, let's be serious, no one cares about compulsive gamblers in state-run monopoly gambling. How much money does the state give to save people who lose their houses to the lottery, horses, or Indian casinos? Answer: $0. They put a help-line number on the end of a commercial and forget about it. If you care about helping people in a Christian, Godly way, you would work to bring all gambling to the surface, regulate, and charge the purveyors of it to help treat and save addicts. Build the cost of compulsive gambling into the structure of gambling as it is. Offer the games people want, where they live, and the mob won't be able to make a trillion dollars a year or more off of gambling.

And please, I understand you want to present a pro and con, but do not contribute to legitimacy to an outright liar like Mr Clark. He deserves zero exposure until he learns what truth is.

Ken King

Online gambling should be illegal.

Roy

I play online poker. I have yet to see a valid argument that my doing so poses a threat to anyone's wealth or well-being who doesn't choose to do the same.

Dianne

The argument that lotteries and such should be good enough makes me angry. Sitting there with a penny scratching off a latex covering to see my predetermined result that pays on average 50% is not my idea of entertainment. It is boring and bad for the consumer.

I would much rather play a $5 poker tournament where I can use my mind and interact with others (usually for more than an hour) instead of spending 15 seconds scratching away.

Sue

Gambling mostly functions as a tax on the poor. If our government is going to allow gambling, at least it should regulate it in such a way that the government gets a share and spends it on social programs. That is unlikely to happen with Internet gambling.

Dianne

GRising, my neighbor and wife's marriage was ruined by $30,000 in credit card debt from constant bar trips, NASCAR events, spa treatments, and the Home Shopping Network. Should the government step in as a result and make new laws? Also, if you don't like the lottery and casinos, just don't go. If others want to, fine, I mind my own business. I think spending $500 to take a family to a Red Sox game is silly, but to each his own.

G Clark

I've been challenged (and insulted) on a few points, so I'll respond to those points.

(1) I was ridiculed for mentioning that I am not paid to run the only national anti-gambling coalition in the U.S. I said that to compare our organization with the organizations that fight against us. Frank Fahrenkoff, the CEO of the American Gaming Association makes millions per year, and spends millions in ads and lobbying to oppose us. There are dozens of the larger off-shore Internet gambling companies that spend in the millions for advertising and lobbying to promote their products. NCALG has an annual budget of around $170,000 to carry out our mission. We are trying to raise enough to get an executive director and a paid lobbyist for DC. We work with anti-gambling organizations in about 40 states, and Tom Grey, our field coordinator and national spokesman, usually stays at the homes of supporters when he arrives to motivate the troops. We have pretty great grassroots support across the nation, but we have little political clout or money. So maybe (2) I am stupid or deranged to think we can make a difference in that lopsided battle.

(3)The University of Connecticut study is certainly not a definitive study on Internet gambling. I admitted that at the outset, but I'll ask you some questions. If you were doing a study of patients at a medical and dental clinic to see what sort of gambling they were doing and how much, and found that, out of the 33 or so subjects in the whole study that gambled on the Internet, more than 70% would be classified on a reputable screening instrument as Class II (problem) or Class III (pathological) gamblers, would you be alarmed? It is a very small sample, but it still has enough validity to raise an alarm. We need more studies. Recently the Internet gambling predators funded a study. Guess what? They found that there was a much lower rate of addiction than the University of Connecticut study. Which one would you think would be more biased?

(4) A few have suggested there are just a lot of "addictive" personalities who would merely be addicted to something else if they were not addicted to gambling. Quite a few studies indicate that it is not a substitution of one addiction for another, but a potentiation of addiction by an addiction to gambling, and that the result is synergistic and magnified. I'll cite studies if you are interested.

(5) I love the argument that lots of things are addictive, like "chocolate cheesecake," shopping, reading, surfing the Internet. I call it the Lay's Potato Chip Defense: "You can't eat just one." But people generally don't go bankrupt because they can't eat just one potato chip. Most chip-eaters don't have a 20% suicide-attempt rate, but gambling addicts do. Most people don't go bankrupt eating potato chips, but gambling addicts have a very high bankruptcy rate. Most chip aficionados don't commit crimes to get their chips, but gambling addicts have a very high rate of criminal activity to fund their addiction. Spouse and child abuse and drug and alcohol addiction are also common features with gambling addicts, but chip eaters, shoppers, pie eaters, futures investors, and surfers don't demonstrate that level of destructive behavior. Really poor comparisons. Try comparing it with alcoholism, heroin, meth, and cocaine addiction, and you have a much more logical parallel of behaviors.

(6)I have been chastised for not attacking lotteries and race tracks. Actually, NCALG has been working for about 16 years fighting the introduction of lotteries, casinos on and off the reservation, and introduction of slots at tracks and elsewhere. Internet gambling is just one of our targets.

Sad to say, but many in this debate seem to feel that if they like to do something, the Constitution gives them a right to do it anywhere they desire. Some reading of Sam Adam's "Social Contract" might disabuse you of those notions. People, even in a democracy, aren't always allowed to do what they choose to do since it affects the rest of society. We elect people to represent us, and they pass laws that are supposed to benefit the society as a whole, such as traffic laws, corporate regulation, and criminal statutes. Some people don't like those laws and ignore them, but they are still the law. Perhaps the Poker Player's Alliance will produce enough grassroots pressure and the Internet gambling predators will spend enough millions on lobbying to convince Congress to legalize and regulate Internet gambling. That would be the beginning of very bad things for our country.

DiDi

Gambling sucks billions of dollars out of the economy each year--dollars that could otherwise be spent on making mortgage payments, buying food, clothing, appliances, etc., all the stuff of life that benefits communities and the economy overall. It has become especially addictive to the young, the elderly, and those who, economically, can least afford to lose. Expansion of professional gambling will eventually lead to, or exacerbate, an economic disaster.

JFNGOULD

"I feel sorry for people uneducated about the true cost of gambling, period. There are no other vices out there that can ruin a person's life so quickly. You could never drink or take drugs equal to the amount of money spent in a day on gambling, or you would be dead. Remember, this is the invisible addiction that you cannot see in your eyes or smell on your breath. You may be surprised at the people you already know who are suffering because of gambling, but are hiding it."

"How 'bout taking away your choices like other forms of theft, robbery, murder, and rape?"

"That's what all laws do. They limit our ability to make choices that damage other people. There has never been a Constitutional right to swindle other people out of their money. For bewildering reasons, a good many states have decided such theft by consent is a good idea as long as the states get a cut of the action--but that still doesn't make it a God-given right."

"You are advocating anarchy. Self government implies that we will govern ourselves, which means we will have laws restricting some of our personal choices."

First we have reliance on an admittedly unseen and therefore undocumented phenomenon that we are to take the author's word for as a means of creating social policy that will affect 300 million people. This is then followed by a redefinition of theft so radical that it could encompass virtually every financial transaction that takes place in the U.S.

I am a professional online gambler and can say that:

1) These types of arguments are very typical of those opposed to Internet gambling and do seem to constitute their best efforts.

2) The current ban on online gambling is so ineffective that Chris Farely dressed up as a woman ranting about beauty products isn't a quarter as funny.


TheEngineer

"We have little political clout or money. So maybe (2) I am stupid or deranged to think we can make a difference in that lopsided battle."

The battle should be lopsided. Your only goal is to take rights from Americans. You know, I have yet to have a casino (Internet or otherwise) come to my house and force me to wager on anything. It's called free choice. I'm impressed that you think you know what's best for us, but I think we can decide how to spend our own money.

Davidr

What you have in Internet gambling is an addictive substance that, according to a study just completed by the British government, addicts 65% of those who gamble on the Internet and causes severe life problems for another 10%. Government has the responsibility given to it by the people to protect the people and promote their general welfare. That is why there is a food and drug administration, why there is a justice department, why there is a center for disease control, because we need to protect people from an addictive situation that can and does affect so many. It doesn't need nor should it be mainlined into every home, business, library, school, cell phone, etc. Studies show that the closer you are to gambling, the more addictive it is. That is why Internet gambling is so addictive. Anyone that wants to gamble in the United States can call some friends and get together and gamble. Casinos are within driving distance of every person in the United States. It just shouldn't be available 24/7 to every vulnerable person in the United States. The damage that it does, according to the AMA, which has declared gambling addiction a mental illness, needs to be controlled as well as any other epidemic. And that is what legalized Internet gambling would cause: a mental illness epidemic.

David

KeithF

GClark. I don't want to write an essay, so I'll just respond to item #5 for now.

"5) I love the argument that lots of things are addictive, like "chocolate cheesecake," shopping, reading, surfing the Internet. I call it the Lay's Potato Chip Defense: "You can't eat just one." But people generally don't go bankrupt because they can't eat just one potato chip. Most chip-eaters don't have a 20% suicide-attempt rate, but gambling addicts do."

So on and so forth. The problem with this is that you're comparing apples with oranges. If you want to compare the suicide rates and such of the small subset of problem gamblers, you need to compare them to the the small subset of chip eaters who are morbidly obese for example.

See the logic? You can't compare problem gamblers with everyone who eats a Twinkie. If you're going to make a fair comparison, you have to look at suicide/bankruptcy rates of the gambling addicts vs. those same rates in the food addicts/alcoholics/shopping addicts, etc.

Let's do obesity first: "Additionally, morbidly obese patients suffer real psychological stresses with limited access to public conveniences, ridicule, prejudice on the job, and limitation of social activities. The suicide rate among these patients is greater than that of the normal population with nearly a tenfold incidence of depression." Source: http://secure.visualzen.com/duke/wlsc/understandingobesity/default.aspx

Here's another interesting one. Sex addiction: "Shame and excessive denial characterize coping by sexual addicts. Depression with suicide ideation and history of attempted suicide is common." Source: Addiction Treatment: Theory and Practice by Sandra Rasmussen (This book also covers pathological gamblers, since they can indeed be compared to sex addicts, shopping addicts, and food addicts.)

Let's outlaw sex next?

Everything under the sun can be abused, from Twinkies, to sex, to gambling. All because a small percentage of the population can become addicted doesn't mean we ban it for the whole. As a free people, we should not legislate sex, food, or gambling in my opinion where the only potential victim of the "crime" is the person committing the act.

That's why laws against spousal abuse and driving under the influence are great. But to outlaw alcohol is foolish. Same for gambling. If you regulate Internet gambling, you can prevent and/or help problem gamblers. If you seek to ban it, the addicts will still be able to access it (just like booze during prohibition), and the only ones who end up obeying the laws are the ones who would have done it in moderation, harming nary a soul.

I don't see how a logical person can understand the common sense in regulating alcohol, but be against regulating online gambling. The same arguments and logic apply to both.

Online gambling can be regulated. Yes, you'll still have scammers, but you can rest assured that the vast, vast majority of online gamblers will choose to play at "Harrah's Online Poker Room" as opposed to "Bob's We May or May Not Pay Your Winnings" poker site.

Kim

Let's talk to the spouse of a gambler whose life and credit have been ruined even if he/she has never touched the keyboard to gamble. Or let's talk to the children of that gambler and explain why Mommy or Daddy has just killed her/himself because of Internet gambling debt. It's the innocent people we need to protect.

Dianne

Gamblers need to realize that they are being used as pawns, again. The people behind the push for online gambling are not gamblers but the bookies-in-the-box who are just waiting for gamblers to lose so that they can take their cut. These cyberspace predators are the ones "entertained." They are "entertained" all the way to their next scam. Just as in other gambling venues, online gamblers risk losing, but the "house" always wins. Government has the obligation to put an end to this huge consumer fraud.

tangled

Re: G. Clark:
“It is a very small sample, but it still has enough validity to raise alarm.”

But you don’t just want to alarm us, you want to ban personal choice for an activity between consenting adults carried out in the sanctity of their own homes. Freedom is one of America’s most cherished ideals, and you want to dispense with it on this matter like it was a chewing gum wrapper. Taking away personal choice on any matter should require overcoming significant hurdles. You haven’t even come close to satisfying that requirement.

But even if you could make a compelling case for ripping from proud Americans what so many brave heroes have given their “last full measure” to secure, you still haven’t shown that banning is the only way to deal effectively with this problem. Despite the actions of the government, millions of Americans still play poker or bet sports or bet the ponies or create fantasy sports teams on the Internet. None of the money that is lost is given to secure effective and compassionate treatment for the troubled gamblers among them. A regulatory regime is worth considering for anybody with your self-described concerns, but all you have to offer is ban, ban, and ban some more.

I submit your true agenda is not one of compassion but of violation. You want to force others to act as you think they should, not to selflessly save others. You are the wolf who needs to be kept behind the fence.

mattspoker

So you people think gambling addicts are helped by cutting off the Internet? You're sadly mistaken. It's a lot easier to bet on a football game with a local bookie than online. Vegas will take every form of credit you have access to, and then add its own. Same for every track and casino and riverboat across the country. If you people gave a damn about compulsive gamblers, you would be talking about treatment and mortgage help, not ignoring the problem by pretending you can ban it. Trolling for suckers isn't confined to the Internet, and it's a lot easier in person than online. Grow up, sappy moralist fakers; maybe you should be keeping your kids away from Republican senators and stop worrying about what healthy Americans choose to do online in their own homes. The Founding Fathers would upchuck all over your holier-than-thou idiocy.

Craig

I occasionally visit online casinos much the same as I do brick and mortar buildings. It is my choice to gamble when, how, and if I choose to do so. There is no logical reason for the government to stop me, a responsible adult, from enjoying my recreational time and money as I see fit. The idea that government can make a criminal of me simply because I choose to gamble at my home instead of in a casino is the government at its very worst. In a free society, I have the right to choose my own morals. I define for myself what is right or wrong. If I choose to do something you do not agree with, and I am not harming you or yours, it is not your concern what I am doing. Government's job is not to impose religious beliefs on its citizens; it is its job to see that people have rights and protections. Come the next election cycle, my voice will be heard, and anyone who I perceive as denying my liberties or freedoms will be voted against. Online gambling is not the concern of this government, and it most certainly does not have the right to limit my freedoms. This is still the home of the free, isn't it?

IndyFish

G. Clark,
In addition to the "Internet gambling predators," the Harvard Medical School did a study of online gambling. It also came to the same conclusion as the "predators." A whopping 1% of a group of 40,000 (not 39) online gamblers showed symptoms of problem gambling. The article can be found here: www.nyproblemgambling.org/latest_news_articles%20research.htm The article also mentions (briefly) how James Dobson of Focus on the Family spins and twists words to make them work in his favor. That seems to be a common tactic of the anti-gambling crowd.

You state that addiction and dependency problems are also associated with a gambling addiction. I hope you are not suggesting that every drunk and drug addict was a fine upstanding citizen prior to discovering gambling. I can see it now: "Well, Martha, I lost $2.45 at online poker. Better start selling meth to the neighborhood kids." All kidding aside, there is a small percentage of the population prone to addiction, be it gambling or alcohol, drugs, chocolate, etc.

What does the UIGEA do to prevent problem gambling? Nothing. The Barney Frank bill offers solutions, but that isn't the point, it seems. The anti-gambling crowd just likes to use the addicts as another arrow in the quiver. After UIGEA passed (although "passed" is a very loose term considering it was never even debated in the Senate prior to being attached to the Port Security Bill), online gambling didn't just go away. There are people in the U.S. gambling online right now. Do you think anyone is doing anything to help that 1% of problem gamblers? Maybe the "predators," but certainly not Dobson or Congress or the Senate. They already "won" their battle.

Finally, I love the whole "Online gambling is sucking money out of the economy" argument DiDi brings up. Why is it sucking billions out of our economy? Because we aren't smart enough to regulate the industry and bring them here. I can assure you that the online card rooms would happily pay U.S. taxes if we'd change our laws. By the way, China is sucking billions out of our economy, but we don't ban Wal-Mart.

Be careful what you get the government to ban. Today it's my hobby. Tomorrow it may be yours.

G Clark

The Engineer says, "Your only goal is to take rights away from Americans." You actually think you have a "right" to gamble on the Internet? Certainly not a Constitutional right, as there is no "right" to gambling mentioned there. You might try to stretch "pursuit of happiness" to include Internet gambling, but you could do that with any behavior in the world. There is no "right" to gamble on the Internet in current law; in fact, the UIGEA basically criminalizes it. Do you think you have a "God-given right?" And here we've been told that all the religious fanatics were on our side of the argument.

Mike

A few brief points that haven't come up yet:

1) State-run lotteries, slot parlors, etc. have been well documented as disproportionately targeting the very poorest people in society; even if you think that all Internet gambling is somehow just as pernicious as these "idiot taxes," note that Internet gambling carries inherent barriers to entry in that the consumer must own a personal computer and a high-speed Internet connection.

2) For the sake of argument, assume that Internet gambling is highly dangerous, an outlet for money laundering and a risk for our children. Then an environment of legalization and regulation is very preferable to the status quo. There is no means of making Internet gambling go away entirely. There will always be some means of transferring money, and there will always be some company willing to "ruin your life" by entering into a financial contract of your choosing with it. The small percentage of people who need protection the most (degenerate pathological gamblers, curious children) are the ones who are most inclined to circumvent any legal restrictions and gamble anyway--and under the current regime, there is no domestic regulatory body in place to help them.

3) It is completely inconsistent for alcohol consumption to be legal while arbitrary forms of "gambling" are illegal--not that anyone would disagree with this, but I find it's a valid point to keep in mind in terms of "protecting people from themselves."

4) Correlations between gambling and organized crime are archaic and very obviously do not apply to Internet gambling via regulated companies. Thus many social and psychological implications of gambling that may have held true 50 years ago do not apply at all to the Internet.

5) There is not nearly enough differentiation of poker from other gambling activities in this discussion. Citing studies focused on mainly casino betting is not going to provide any germane results to the current age in which poker makes up a large portion of most online gambling activity (aside from trading derivatives). The incidence rates of problematic behavior are far lower, and it is a game that offers many positive benefits to society.

TheEngineer

You do-gooders make me laugh. You try to come up with excuses as to why you think online gaming should be illegal, when the truth is that you simply don't like gaming. Why not admit the truth?

As to your arguments, certainly we'd be better off with funded treatment programs and software designed to identify compulsive patterns while permitting players to self-exclude from all Internet sites at once. This won't happen with a ban.

Finally, sorry, but you don't know what's best for me. I don't need you to choose for me where I should be allowed to play poker. If I prefer to play at home with my wife by my side, rather than at a smoky casino, that's my business, not yours.

TheEngineer

G. Clark,
"You actually think you have a 'right' to gamble on the Internet? Certainly not a Constitutional right, as there is no 'right' to gambling mentioned there."

The Constitution doesn't "give" rights to individuals. Rather, it delegates to the federal government some rights that were already possessed by individuals. The Constitution does not give the federal government the power to prohibit Internet gaming. So, yes, I do have a right to play online.

Also, with the exception of a few states, UIGEA doesn't apply to poker, as the Wire Act applies only to sports betting. Surely you noticed the Department of Justice has done nothing about FullTilt, Poker Stars, and the many other poker sites still available in the U.S.

Regardless, we're fighting for our rights. We're fighting at the grassroots, we're fighting legislatively with several bills, we're fighting at the judicial level, and we're fighting at the international level. We'll keep fighting for our rights. Whine all you want. Keep assuming you know what's best for me and my family. I don't care. You have no right to tell me what to do in my own home. We care, and we vote.

OldBookGuy

To G. Clark,
I am constantly amazed at people who quote the Constitution and get it wrong.

1. Pursuit of happiness is in the Declaration, not the Constitution, sorry.
2. As to "right" to play poker, no, it is not mentioned.
3. The Constitution "delegates" rights to three groups, see Amendment X.
4. The third and most important group, the people, not the federal or state government.
5. The Constitution primarily "restricts" the powers of state and federal governments, actually delegating to them very little.

I urge you and everyone to actually read it, at least once.

Legispublius

G. Clark,
Maybe poker isn't a right, but do you think you have a right to freaking tell me what to do in my home? What Article in the Constitution entitles you to be a Nazi? And who died and made you the Pope of America? What kind of twisted convoluted hypocrisy entitles you to determine what people should and shouldn't do and which companies are "predators." If we don't have a right to poker, you don't have a right to go around spying on people's computers. Get out of my home. Maybe you can get a job working for Al Qaeda in Iraq cutting off the fingers of people who play poker online, I hear they are into that there. The intelligence levels match up quite well.

Joe

I am surprised at the amount of effort being put in by the anti-gambling crowd. Are there not better places to spend your time and bigger fish to fry if you honestly want to help people? The "we are doing it for the good of Americans argument" stinks.

As someone who goes to cancer support groups monthly and participates in fund raisers, I have seen the pain that tobacco use causes. In fact, every year 440,000 die from tobacco use. Why is there not nearly as much outrage about something that negatively effects so many?

This decade alone we have passed the 100,000 mark for fatalities from drunk driving, yet it seems to me some people want to spend more effort on making sure we don't play poker from our living rooms than anything else.


Patrick Fleming

I just would like to note, after all the debate above, not one of the anti-gambling opinions, especially including those by Mr. Clark, has any thought as to why regulation with protections is not a sufficient response to the "horrors of problem gambling."

It is the sign of dishonesty or stupidity to simply say "look, here is someone who got hurt by gambling, gambling must be made illegal." Yet that is all the anti-gamblers have said. And when they are called on it by folks pointing out people hurt by other things they are not trying to make illegal, they revert to a different emotional appeal ("well, Internet gambling is the crack cocaine of gambling"). Again, if this were even remotely true, the evidence would be obvious: Show me the hundreds of homeless on the streets of London who are there because Internet gambling is so especially addictive. If what you say is true, they must be there; find them or shut up.

And finally, thanks to Mr. Engineer for pointing out how Mr. Clark has the Constitution exactly backward: This country was founded on the principle that people have the rights, and they give up some of them to the government for the greater benefit of all. In other words, while Mr. Clark would have you believe that if the Constitution doesn't explicitly say you have a right, you don't. Thomas Jefferson would note that, in fact, the reverse is true. If the Constitution does not give the government the right to act, the people retain the right. Where in the Constitution is the government given the authority to determine what games I play for money on the Internet? That is the proper way to phrase the question.

Once on my way home from a hike in the mountains, I saw a rock climber who had fallen over a very rocky cliff. His injuries were great and his suffering very real; his recovery undoubtedly cost lots of money, and I am sure had significant effect on his family's well being. If I were Mr. Clark, I would have that day undergone a transformation and begun my own movement to make rock climbing illegal. It is, after all, far more easily accessible to poor folks than real mountain climbing in real mountains. You might even call rock climbing the "crack cocaine" of mountain climbing.

Charles Geiger

Gambling for small stakes on occasion can be entertaining, although the risk of addiction looms as a strong hazard for a significant minority of our population. For some, the result can be disastrous economically, socially, and psychologically. It is not an honest industry. It is based on greed and personal gain, and preys on those who are vulnerable regardless of consequences. Our society and its laws should weight the risks more heavily than the fleeting pleasures. Therefore, I acknowledge some forms of gambling that are not easily accessible particularly to those most vulnerable to the risks of addiction and its cruel consequences. However, ready accessibility to gambling as through the Internet should be unlawful.

Mike Hawk

People gamble on the stock market six days a week in the U.S. No one seems to be concerned about the well being of the online stock trader and his potential to go broke. I'm sure that the same people who will suggest that trading stock is a game of skill more than luck still don't understand the statistical probabilities of poker. If only we could make higher education mandatory in this country.

Elaine

Just checked. Gambling is not a "right." For those of us who do not gamble, online gambling seems to be even more stupid than other forms of gambling. However, swindlers love gullible people and, sadly, it sounds like some of the responders have fallen for this "spin."

Alexis H. Johnson

The dispute in the WTO is not the first time that the United States has found itself in an international forum where the forum and the process in it raise critical governmental and "sovereignty of nations" issues.

One such example is the Dann case before the OAS and the UN. There, the party aggrieved sought an international resolution of a land claim by tribal members in the U.S. involving the BLM.

Now, in the Antigua-Internet-gambling-WTO case, there may be some silver lining actually, but the silver lining may also come at the expense of some stomach linings.

Basically, the U.S. needs to examine its position before the WTO, and, there and elsewhere, examine whether its gambling policy and police powers restrictions, state, federal, and tribal are consistent and uniform in application to U.S. citizens first; then and thereafter examine whether any such positions as incorporated in U.S. trade positions are consistent and equitable in the bargained-for trade agreements or resolutions as between sovereigns.

Indeed, the tiny country of Antigua (and its largely faceless Internet-commercial partners from around the globe), might actually do a greater service for U.S. coherence on gambling policy than any prior force.

And, at the same time, help to spell out for people the difference between "an individual right" and the proper exercise of "a sovereign governmental power."

Further, the matter might help people in the U.S. to re-examine what the identity and properties of the U.S. as a governmental structure designed to safeguard its citizens and their welfare ("the people") is all about.

Indeed, to what extent do the people represented by the Congress in the lawmaking powers of the U.S. need to answer to Antigua which is not, the last time I checked, either a state in the U.S. or a branch of government in the U.S. structure of government?

If the U.S. took up a more honest (and, in my opinion, a much tougher) position on gambling throughout the U.S., the Internet gambling "troubles" in Antigua would not be troubling at all.

But then, bringing the war home is an American pastime, although it is not done very well, ironically, when the structure of government itself is the issue and gambling interests and modalities are the collision seeking "opposition to the structure of government."

Maybe this time, someone will see the way through. It is not hard to see what to do, except perhaps on some stomach linings or on lazy habits and plain errors in focus.

Mr. Alexis H. Johnson
Flagstaff, Ariz.

G Clark

Tangled: "But even if you could make a compelling case for ripping from proud Americans what so many brave heroes have given their 'last full measure' to secure..." Tangled is a good pen name. Let's see, our heroes in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq fought so that you would have the convenience of gambling on the Internet. To save you from a 10-minute to two-hour drive to the nearest shark. The heroes would roll over in their graves to hear their sacrifice so trivialized.

And actually there has been a significant reduction in Internet gambling in America since UIGEA passed, as well as the Internet gambling companies suffering a net loss in value of $6 billion one day after it passed. A fair number of Internet gambling companies have pulled out of the U.S. market, as well. A reduction in gambling usually translates to a reduction in addiction, don't you agree?

G Clark

IndyFish says: "In addition to the 'Internet gambling predators,' the Harvard Medical School did a study of online gambling..." Actually, I was referring directly to the Harvard research. Thanks. The American Gaming Association has donated millions to the addiction division of the Harvard Medical School through the National Council on Responsible Gaming to give them cover. The NCRG is a creation of the AGA for just this purpose. A few years after they were created, they lost two of their most prominent researchers because of tainted research. The gambling research out of Harvard is basically public relations work for the AGA, and NCALG has written to the alumni association and administration of Harvard to make them aware of the use to which their medical school's name is paraded. With all their money, the AGA can afford to buy whole wings of colleges, so expect to see more white-washed research funded by the AGA and their minions.

Tim Falkiner

International gambling is a passing phase as governments, including the EU members, will quickly tire of remote tax havens sucking money out of their economies and causing massive social problems. For example, the EU industry is locating in Malta, and Britain has just conducted a study showing a steep rise in problem gambling. Assuming Britain is going to start reining in gambling, international Internet gambling will be the first to go. All the EU countries are going to turn on the industry, and it will happen quickly, like Norway and Russia with the gaming machines.

We banned Internet gambling in Australia, and there has never been any complaint from the populace.

Maintaining integrity of sports and games is hard enough when contained within the jurisdiction, let alone outside the jurisdiction. And make no mistake, scandals have the capacity to wipe out the racing industry.

G Clark

KeithF says, "The logic? You can't compare problem gamblers with everyone who eats a Twinkie." Good theorizing on subsets of "addicted" shoppers, eaters, etc. But where's your data? As awful as the problem of obesity is, where's your data or studies that indicate increased suicides for over-eaters? Canada, lamentably, is one of the only places in the world where the government records suicides that are gambling-induced. Lots of suicide studies for gambling. One example from the CBC news: "An estimated 200 compulsive gamblers commit suicide in Canada every year," said Terry Flynn, a director of spiritual care at the Bellwood Health Services facility in Toronto."

As destructive as sex-addiction is, where is the data or reports on bankruptcies caused by that disorder? U.S. News and World Report found that proximity to casinos greatly increased bankruptcies in the surrounding counties. Creighton University and Georgetown University, in two separate studies, found that bankruptcies expanded in counties a few years after the introduction of casinos. The Federal Reserve Board did a study that found that access to legalized gambling is also an important determinant of bankruptcy filings. I think the Twinkies argument is lame and lacks documentation.

Call me a cockeyed optimist, but in spite of the chilling logic demonstrated by the opposition in this debate, I still think that criminalization is the best way to reduce Internet gambling activity and addiction. I happen to agree with Warwick Bartlett, a partner of British-based Global Betting and Gaming Consultants, who said he expected the U.S. market share of the worldwide online gambling industry to drop from 45% in 2006 to 24% in 2007 as a result of the latest U.S. law and other actions." A 50% reduction sounds like a pretty good start to me. But go ahead and defend the billionaire Internet gambling predators. They could be an endangered species.

TheEngineer

I think the big government nanny-staters overreached when they didn't specifically exclude poker from UIGEA, as we poker players are a tenacious bunch who will never give up. If you let us play (I have no personal interest in other gaming, though I do support the right of these people to spend their own money as they choose).

Also, most of the anti-gambling arguments fall particularly flat in regard to poker. Poker is a game of skill that is beatable by a skilled player, so there goes the argument that the "house always wins." Poker sites have no stake in who wins or loses, so there goes the red herring about the so-called "gambling predators" who merely expect compensation for services provided. Also, players are not being "swindled." Rather, they win and lose according to their skill, so there goes that argument.

The funny thing is that this anti-gambling overreach will eventually result in open, expressly legal gaming on the Internet across America. When it happens, I'll laugh.

G Clark

Engineer and OldBookGuy,
Thanks for the civics lesson. I read at least 20 of the Internet gambling fans in this debate celebrate their "right" to gamble on the Internet. I am just trying to determine where they think they derive that right.

The fact that the Constitution restricts the power of the central government in some areas and spreads powers to the states and a great deal of freedom of action for its citizens doesn't give us as citizens the "right" to pursue any course of action that we desire. Some people desire to inject heroin in their veins. Others desire to traffic in child pornography or to hire a prostitute. Because a specific action is not prohibited in the Constitution, it does not follow that that action is sanctioned. Maybe you guys should push for a new Constitutional amendment that actually does give you a right to gamble on the Internet, since the Constitution neither overtly nor derivatively gives you that right. The Constitution was vague enough about specific behavior that our forefathers felt they needed an amendment to protect even their freedom of speech. Is your "right" to gamble on the Internet that sacred?

Did these folks think that they have a "right" to gamble on the Internet because Congress has no power to enact laws that in its estimation protect society and the nation? Maybe.

Did they think that their "rights" to gamble on the Internet spring from nature or nature's God?

I can't see any logical source from which they derive their "right" to gamble on the Internet. I think they are just angry because they want to do it and the government of the United States interferes with their desire.

IndyFish

G. Clark,
You are mostly correct, sir. The AGA did indeed form the National Center (not Council) for Responsible Gaming (NCRG) in order to fund scientific research of gambling and compulsive gambling disorders. They also focus on the treatment of those disorders and educate gamblers on responsible gaming.

I find it strange that you question the Harvard study, but quote a study of 389 college students where all of 39 of them had experience with online gambling.

The Harvard study found 1% of 40,500 online sports bettors showed signs of problem gambling. You say this is "white-washed research" and "public relations work for the AGA."

So I visited your Web site (www.ncalg.org) and found some surprising information on gambling. The following are direct quotes from your Web site:

In a mature gambling market, compulsive gambling typically seizes the lives of 1.5% to 2.5% of the adult population.

The American Psychiatric Association says between 1% and 3% of the U.S. population is addicted to gambling, depending on location and demographics.

Where is this 70% figure you stated earlier? Your own Web site corroborates the Harvard study findings. So I feel I must ask the question: Did the American Gaming Association use "all their money" to buy out the NCALG?

Grant I

Why are we so anxious to place a burden on the general public for an activity referred to as entertainment? Studies have shown that for each dollar spent gambling, the cost to those who gamble and to those who do not gamble is approximately $3.90. These are social costs that include embezzlement, stealing, increased law enforcement, bankruptcies, etc. The effect not only is financial but also results in broken homes and marriages, suicide, entry into poverty for children, and loan-sharking. Where does this fit under the "pursuit of happiness"?

TheEngineer

G. Clark,
When I refer to our rights, I'm referring to the fact that there's no law against playing poker online in most states, and there's no federal law against it. Do you understand? It's not illegal. Therefore, those of us in most states currently enjoy the right to play in our own homes, and we're quite willing to fight to preserve this right.

As for studies, Rep. Shelly Berkley has sponsored a bill calling for a comprehensive study on Internet gaming. As you seemingly lean on the studies that happen to give the results you want while finding fault with those that don't, surely you see the need for this. So, do you support HR 2140, Internet Gambling Study Act?

Legispublius

G Clark,
Where do you get your numbers that online gaming is down since UIGEA? All you did was dent the growth temporarily. Watch ESPN tonight, and count the poker site commercials. Sports betting sites do what sports bookies do. Sell customer lists if you're busted, and the action still gets taken. Western Union cannot stop transfers to individuals. All the major books who still take U.S. action still have tons of it. Indeed, they will help you set up a foreign bank account if you so choose. Take checks. Money orders. Think you can shut down hundreds and hundreds of new Web sites every football season? Guess again. Maybe, just maybe, online casinos with blackjack and craps haven't recovered, I don't have much exposure to that part so I don't know, though most sports books offer casino games as well.

That puts you back to the question of how do you help problem gamblers? Shutting down gambling online is a pipe dream. There are 100 jurisdictions who will tell the Department of Justice to go do censored things. There are new ways to fund anonymously every day. Prohibition will not work. People gamble; its in our very nature. So, pushing things more and more offshore, more and more shady, is somehow going to help people? You would think you would get your head out of your backside or wherever you stick it for information and start truly helping people by pulling operators into daylight and making them pay for the cost of gambling to society. You can't make money as an online site over the long haul without being legitimate in the eyes of customers, and that would require getting a license from the most respected jurisdictions. If the U.S. and EU got together and put together a tax and advertising and regulatory scheme to make the companies pay for compulsive gamers, remote gaming would be the first gaming entity ever forced to pay for helping compulsive gamblers. Your domestic gaming paymasters don't do that for lotto or Vegas or horse track gamblers. Maybe if you got over your loathing and hatred and worked to help eventual problem gamblers, you would do more good than just ranting and raving a losing battle.

Gambling is marching forward faster and faster. Each year, you hear of states advancing gambling, not restricting it.

How many of them had real help for problem gamblers written in to legislation? Answer: 0. Your "movement" should seriously consider that you are doing zero good sticking fingers in a broken dam. Move downstream, and start lobbying for regulated, uniform gambling where gambling companies and governments have to pay for the ills they cause. Don't fight what people want to do and will do
despite whatever you do. You accomplish nothing.

Legispublius

Grant,
Where the hell do you get those numbers? Liars on the Family? Are you factoring in the kid who got a scholarship from state gambling funds? The barely educated blackjack dealer who makes $75K a year and has a middle class life and college educated kids? The poker player who pays taxes, raises kids, and runs local businesses giving jobs? People in gaming are not mobsters. We are not hustlers. We are normal everyday people you see in markets, churches, and schools. We provide jobs and fun.

Suicides and divorces? You want to shut down the stock market? Broken traders come into offices with guns and kill dozens, then turn the gun on themselves.

Churches tell kids who are gay they are going to hell, and lead them to suicide. You have a credit card that gives you points for purchases? How many college kids did they ply with $10K-limit cards who are now broken and depressed drug addicts? Maybe you should give back those free flights because they were paid for by a kid victimized by the company you get rewards from.

You want to ban churches or stock trading or credit cards? Divorce, suicide, bankruptcy are not unique to gambling, so stop spouting the little talking lies James Dobson hands you. If you want to help, help. But don't seek to try to deny responsible people freedoms you dislike.

random

"For fear of boring everyone in this debate, I didn't want to spend a lot of time on the methodology of the University of Connecticut study on gambling, or on the intricacies of gambling addiction categorization, but you can examine all those details by looking up the study in the Psychology of Addictive Behaviors Journal."

http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/adb16176.pdf

Oh, of course, Mr. Clark, why would you bore people with such tedious and unnecessary things as proving your outrageous numbers in a policy debate? Why would we possibly start to examine boring facts instead of mud-slinging and accusing gambling groups of buying any legitimate study to spin it into its advocacy arm?

But since I'm such a boring person, I took a look at the study to which you linked and saw why you were avoiding putting it front and center until I started to press you to do so. Your arrogant "oh, I showed him" tone is only there to cover up the fact that you were lying about what the study found and how its results apply to your crusade. So let's do the boring thing and take a look at how you abused and misused this study.

The study focused on people living next door to two major casinos. Only 389 of them filled out a survey that could be analyzed, and out of them, only 8.1% of the sample had ever gambled on the Internet. That's just 31 people. Living right next to a casino. Out of them, 74% were classified as problem gamblers, an entire 23 people. So the study proves that 23 people living next door to a casino and going to a particular dental clinic have gambled on the Web and are problem gamblers with no evidence that their gambling problem didn't just spread to the Web. The study made no conclusion or investigation into whether e-gambling is more addictive then traditional gambling, and for you to use it for this correlation is an outright lie.

The study devotes almost a third of its length to saying that the sample is extremely biased, collected from an area and a demographic exceedingly prone to problem gambling, and urges to view its results with great caution. Obviously, in your zealous crusade, you missed that part of the study as well.

Also, the study clearly states that:

"Because only one other known study reported on the prevalence of Internet gambling, comparisons of the rates of Internet gambling found in this study to other populations are premature. Only Petry and Mallya's (2001) study provides a comparative perspective. Using a methodology similar to that of the present study, Petry and Mallya examined rates of Internet gambling among UCHC health center employees (n = 907) who, as a group, had an almost identical mean age (42.8) but higher annual income and educational achievement than participants in the present study. Yet Petry and Mallya found a prevalence rate of Internet gambling of just 1.2%, which is a considerable departure from the present study's findings of 8.1%."

Translation: They have results that are abnormally high, and they don't believe that it applies to any other demographic. Their results are only relevant if you're uninsured, live close to a casino and have a disproportionate propensity to problem gambling. The rates of e-gambling and subsequently, addiction, are most likely to be exponentially lower in other populations.

So Mr. Clark, I would like to know what you think gives you the right to lie about your sources and lie about facts and statistics to manipulate public policy? You tried to show me up by flinging a study in my face and I see you were clearly lying about what the study set out to do, where it was conducted (you never mentioned that it was next to casinos, probably on purpose) and what the results of the study were explained to mean by the its authors. You also deliberately omitted relevant numbers, focusing only on those that spun in just the right way seemed to prove your crusade. Next time you try to lie your way through a debate, pick a lie that sounds more reasonable and maybe you'll avoid running into a curious number-cruncher like me. This is why I warned you that demagogues shouldn't debate, just pontificate and flee. Lucky for you, lawmakers only care about votes, not facts.

G Clark

IndyFish, thanks for visiting our Web site. And for catching my typo. I should run all this stuff past our writer/editor/researcher, but it has just moved too fast.

I never said that the University of Connecticut study found 70% of the general public were compulsive gamblers. They found that more than 70% of the Internet gamblers who they studied would be classified as problem or pathological gamblers, not the general public.

Quite a few studies have found levels of less than 1% in areas with minimal or no gambling. About two years ago, Professor William Thompson from UNLV did a study in Clark County, Nev., and found about 6% of the public to be problem and pathological gamblers. Dr. Rachel Volberg of Gemini research found that the rate of gambling addiction in Iowa rose from about 1.7% before riverboat casinos were introduced, to about 5.1% eight years later. I'm sure the University of Connecticut researchers were scratching their heads over their findings.

Internet gambling is a new enough phenomenon that not a lot of studies have been done on it. Don't trust the gambling-industry funded ones--they are basically the same as in-house research. They get what they pay for.

For your information, NCALG doesn't take money from gambling interests of any stripe, and I think the AGA thinks the $170,000 or so in our budget is way too much to consider giving us any.

random

So Mr. Clark,
If the Harvard figure of 1% to 2% is a whitewash invented by the gambling industry to blind us silly mortals from the truth, how come the 1.5% to 2.5% figures you use on your site are more reliable if they amount to nothing more then a rounding error from what you call propagandistic whitewash? The 5% and 6% numbers you used for small areas where gambling is a big business don't have anything to do with e-gambling since they deal with traditional gambling establishments.

As you yourself admitted, there haven't been enough studies done to determine the effect of e-gambling and its relationship to traditional casino/lotto/riverboat gambling. And yet, you've been ominously throwing around the statistic that 23 out of 31 people at a dental clinic next to two big casinos have a major gaming addiction, saying that researchers at University of Connecticut found that 70% of Internet gamblers are addicted. Oh, and you neglected to mention that they only studied 31 people, implying that the sample was much greater with these exact words:

"A 2002 study by the University of Connecticut of outpatients in its medical and dental clinics found that about 70% of those who gambled on the Internet would be classified as problem or pathological gamblers."

Now you're backpedaling away from it and saying that the researchers at UC were probably scratching their heads, not sure how they got such severe numbers in light of your 5.1% and 6% figures for Iowa riverboats and the Vegas Strip. So wouldn't common sense and not your "writer and editor" tell you that claiming a 70% addiction rate from a study of 31 people is downright ridiculous in comparing to between 5% and 6% in studies on thousands of people in areas extremely prone to gambling addiction?

I also wonder if your writer/editor/researcher will help you with your love for mudslinging and insults, like accusing libertarians of advocating the sale of cocaine from vending machines? Does he or she do ad hominem checks, too? Oh and ask him or her about ghostwriting because after you've emptied all your hatred, paranoia, and accusations onto this forum, it looks like you really need ghostwriting services to appear as a reasonable, civilized human being and not a lying ideologue who needs to backpedal from two thirds of the statements he makes. Again, luckily for you, politicians play the same games.

Caroleejam

Most of the comments so far have produced condemnations of Guy Clark, or say that Internet gambling is not so bad as illegal drugs and drunken driving or that it is not banned in the Constitution.

So far, not one of the 100-plus proponents of Internet gambling has offered the slightest beginning of a system of controlling it as a substitute for banning it. Sounds like an all or nothing high-stakes gamble on their part. No tax to pay the huge social costs? No system of penalties and fines for allowing underage gamblers? No licensing to drive out the gambling companies who commit fraud or do not pay taxes?

Maybe all the companies need to move money through a Paypal-type system or designated financial institution to detect frauds, check company finances, and be sure the money is not benefiting criminal or terrorist elements. Possibly, people who are already victims of gambling should be cut off from such in-home pleasures that destroy their families. Maybe a $5 limit on bets would be something you would suggest

You 100+ proponents have two basic choices: 1.Tear all my suggestions to shreds using quotes from Harvard or the Constitution or WTO, and call me names ranging from idiot to Republican or worse. The world can then conclude that the current law in the USA is the only real solution or; 2. Admit there are real problems as with other forms of legal and illegal gambling and put your minds to work creating laws and regulations that will solve the problems with much better effect than my schemes.

Maybe some of your ideas such as a 3% tax on gambling revenues to pay for the social and family damage--and the rise in crime by desperate players and losers--would have additional value. If so, they should be adopted by Las Vegas, state lotteries, slots, and casino operators and even racetracks.

KeithF

Mr. Clark,
KeithF says, "The logic? You can't compare problem gamblers with everyone who eats a Twinkie. Good theorizing on subsets of 'addicted' shoppers, eaters, etc. But where's your data? As awful as the problem of obesity is, where's your data or studies that indicate increased suicides for over-eaters?"

I gave links to sources for both obesity (food addiction) and sexual addiction. If you want sources to the sources, you'll have to dig into those yourself. (Both sources looked pretty reputable.)

Bottom line is this. Anti-gambling forces' best argument is that it can be addictive and create greater problems for the gambler and his or her family. However, for every one sob story about some poor fellow who lost his home, family, or life because of online gambling, I can point to many, many normal people who play recreationally and suffer no ill effects.

This in a nutshell is why a fair-minded person can't ban online gaming without banning food, sex, alcohol, etc.

Please don't make the joke comparison of online gambling to things like crack or heroin. Crack and heroin harm every person who uses them. The addiction rates are sky high for those things. They don't fall under the same category.

Gambling and online gambling is something that can be enjoyed by the vast majority of individuals who partake with no harmful effects, just like sex, food, and alcohol. It shouldn't be banned, just like those other things shouldn't be banned.

If a product shows an extremely high propensity to damage everyone who participates (heroin, crack, etc.), then you have a solid argument. Otherwise it's a hypocritical argument.

I suppose the only other argument I hear regularly is "Gambling is sin." I live in the Bible Belt, and do lead singing at my Independent Baptist Church that my dad pastored for 20 years. But that's another debate, and one I have never lost, even with my dad, who is anti-gambling.

Jeff

Dr. Clark,
I hope that you don't treat your patients using the same logic that you have applied to this debate. After a visit to the Division on Addictions Web site and a read through the NCALG Web site, it is clear to me that you are disingenuous. The NCALG Web site quotes Harvard research, and simultaneously you claim it is tainted. Wow, use it when you want and discard it when you want. You can't have it both ways.

What is most interesting, however, is that the Harvard studies are published in the most prestigious scientific journals. Are you suggesting that peer reviewed journals conspire with Harvard faculty to promote gambling? Are you kidding? Instead, it appears that the division faculty publish in high quality peer-reviewed scientific journals to assure that their methods are beyond reproach. Do you have a scientific criticism to offer rather than innuendo? Further, a careful review of their work seems to show that the industry wouldn't buy what they have learned and published: They have provided what seems to be the highest scientific estimates of the prevalence of gambling disorder, not the lowest as you seem to imply; they have shown that industry employees have higher rates of various illness and gambling problems compared to the community, something the industry likely would not buy if they could avoid it; they are the first research team to publish research on actual Internet gamblers rather than to be satisfied just with self-report about Internet gambling. It seems that you cannot find scientific fault with their work, so you resort to mudslinging.

I have long been against the expansion of gaming simply because I don't like it. However, you are changing my mind. Ironically, it seems that you as a representative of the anti-gambling lobby are dishonest, not the gambling industry. Lots of people would have expected the opposite. They have funded independent science that is meeting scientific peer review and leading to prevention and treatment programs; your group offers only rhetoric, innuendo, and no helpful solutions other than to restrict personal liberty. In this great democracy, every liberty must be protected. Once we start to lose the small ones, the larger ones are at more risk. If I remember it somewhat accurately, Benjamin Franklin once noted that we should never give up liberty, even at the cost of our health.

Eric

The Bill of Rights (10th amendment) reserves all issues not addressed in the Constitution to the states or the people, which is why the Constitution had to be amended to prohibit alcohol. I'm sure loopholes could be argued like regulation of foreign and interstate commerce; it's not as though Congress really pays attention to the Constitution anymore as long as they appear to have "done something" while in office. If taking away my liberty will prevent Daddy from blowing junior's college fund, I'll go along with it as long as we can have government-issue licenses for parenthood, because I don't want said numbskull turning his offspring loose on the world.

David

CaroleeJam,
Then McDonald's and Burger King should pay for obesity-related disease and medical costs. Coors and Busch should pay for alcohol rehab. JR Reynolds should pay for all lung-related disease. The Bush Administration should pay for all stress-related disease since their scare tactics are used daily on us and have caused millions of mental health problems, etc.

There are already systems in place for online gambling. Companies are ahead of the game. They can track playing limits and age verification. The U.S. could follow England's system or another European or Caribbean system.

IndyFish

Caroleejam,
Not one of the 100-plus proponents of online gambling has offered a system to begin regulation, because they already exist. They are:

- H.R. 2046, Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act of 2007. Introduced by Rep. Barney Frank.
- H.R. 2610, Skill Game Protection Act. Introduced by Rep. Wexler.
- H.R. 2607, Internet Gambling Regulation and Tax Enforcement Act of 2007. Introduced by Rep. Jim McDermott.

A brief description of the Barney Frank bill:

"The Act establishes a federal regulatory and enforcement framework to license companies to accept bets and wagers online from individuals in the U.S., to the extent permitted by individual states, Indian tribes and sport leagues. All such licenses would include protections against underage gambling, compulsive gambling, money laundering and fraud."

Note especially the part about underage gambling and compulsive gambling. The current ban does absolutely nothing to stop either. As others have repeatedly pointed out, there are sites still open to U.S. gamblers. If those are shut down, others will open. Problem gamblers will find a way to get their fix, no matter how difficult it becomes. If you shut down the nearest liquor store, does an alcoholic go sober? Same with gambling. And thank you for being one of a very few who showed signs of reason and honesty from the other side of the debate.

IndyFish

"Internet gambling is a new enough phenomenon that not a lot of studies have been done on it. Don't trust the gambling-industry funded ones--they are basically the same as in-house research. They get what they pay for."

Don't trust them because they go against what you want them to say? Okay, I'll trust the studies I quoted from your own Web site. They all come to the same conclusion.

Mr. Clark, if you check my previous posts (as well as those from most of the pro-gambling supporters) you will find that all facts, figures, and statistics are clearly quoted, with a source and Web site listed where that info can be confirmed. I do not attempt to pass off my personal opinion or agenda as fact without proof.

You, on the other hand, have been disingenuous from the very beginning of this debate. "Random" called your bluff as did others, including me. You demonize honest companies by calling them "predators"; you say a study done by Harvard is "white-washed" and "PR for the AGA"; you compare an honest game like poker to cocaine or heroine; you purposefully misrepresent an absolutely useless study as being statistically significant. I could go on. In the future I believe you would be much better served by being open and honest from the start.

As (I believe) has been clearly shown, the research does not support your argument. Online gambling is no worse than casinos or the lottery concerning addiction. The ban does nothing to address compulsive or underage gamblers, nor does it provide funding for enforcement. The ban simply caused Americans to move from the regulated publicly traded companies to less-transparent private companies. Newsweek recently ran an article on the WTO case (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20790111/site/newsweek/), reporting that our disregard of the treaty Jay Cohen mentions will cost the U.S. up to $100 billion in sanctions.

Or we could regulate online gaming, giving treatment or exclusion to problem gamblers, restrict access to minors, provide funding to prevent addiction, provide oversight to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing, be in compliance with the WTO, and make a hell of a lot in taxes.

I honestly don't know why this is even debated. Regardless, I've said all I wanted to say. Let the truth speak for itself. Good day.

DBass

"And actually there has been a significant reduction in Internet gambling in America since UIGEA passed..."

Perhaps, but how has this decrease helped with those who are "problem gamblers"? I guess we could make an inference from the help that drug addicts have received from prohibition (as opposed to completely illogical treatment).

Prior to the prohibition of drugs in this country, estimates place the number of addicts at 1.3% of the population. To date, following nearly 90 years of prohibition, we can stand proudly and report that the number of drug addicts is approximately 1.3% of the population.

Good job, prohibition. (Motto: I don't work but, I sure am expensive.)

Mary's Husband Joe

There have been a lot of numbers thrown around in this debate about the crack cocaine nature of online poker and the percentage of new problem gamblers poker has created online.

It has been argued that from 2.5% to 70% of the U.S. population that is exposed to this most addictive form of gambling ever invented become so addicted it leads to financial ruin, suicide, and worse.

Just using poker numbers, as I personally think it is a different activity, I have a well-established number for it--30 million Americans play poker. About half, or 15 million, do so online.

Which is more believable: that online poker has created 10 million totally addicted online poker player who have so severely destroyed their lives, or that online gambling seems to follow the tried and true past studies that less than 5% of the general population will become addicted to anything they find in some way pleasurable? Be it drugs, drinking, eating, tanning, or even exercise? Is there some sort of media conspiracy that is hiding all of these tens of thousands of suicides every year?

Responsible poker players everywhere are very mindful of the existence of problem gamblers. Most but indeed not all do not want a dime of these people's money. Most of those who insist on defending our right to gamble responsibly however we choose are up in arms about the UIGEA, not because it "bans" online poker, because we all know it did no such thing. Most of us still play online poker everyday.

Responsible Americans know all rights come with some burdens and costs. Everyone has the right to vote, even if we often get some pretty dumb elected officials and more than our share of crooks. We don't march in the streets looking for a king to save us; we keep voting and perhaps work a little harder for out candidate next time.

The PPA, of which I am a member, makes it clear it is organized for the protection of the rights of Americans to play poker. The PPA is not fighting for the unrestricted right to play online by anyone anywhere at anytime. Read the PPA mission statement and look at the actions it supports: forbidding underage participation. Safe and secure money transfers. Regulation of poker sites that include licensing, gaming oversight to ensure a straight game, and addressing the issue of problem gamblers. Just to hit the highlights.

The UIGEA's effects and the anti-gambling people's efforts have led to no stoppage of online poker. All it has done is raise the cost to deposit money online and reduce any semblance of U.S. banking protection.

Mr. Clark, if you took one look at the PPA, you'd see you have an ally, not a foe. We want all the protections a group of responsible people want in any way associated with poker. We want the right to play poker when and where we choose, but we are willing to do that in some form of reasonable regulatory matrix. Pushing poker farther underground and farther off-shore might seem like a victory to the anti-gambling people, but it is Pyrrhic at best.

The funds from any licensing fees alone would fund more government problem-gambling studies than you could complete in a lifetime, Mr. Clark. When you add to that the uncollected annual $3.5 billion in taxes from all of our off-shore accounts--not to mention at least 10 times that in possible WTO trade disputes' annual costs in trade, let alone the jobs impact--you will find yourself on the wrong end of, as we say, a loosing hand.

You've won a small pot but have so destroyed your table image that when the rewards of the eventual tourney are divided up, you are going to still be complaining about your "bad beat." You've busted out, Mr. Clark.

Next fish, please.

TheEngineer

Guy C,
You like to quote studies in your favor as reasons to justify banning Internet gaming. However, you downplay studies not in your favor. As it seems we need a definitive study, and as you seem to be a big fan of studies, do you support H.R. 2160, the Internet Gambling Study Act?

TheEngineer

HR 2140, the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act provides "protections against underage gambling, compulsive gambling, money laundering and fraud." Everyone here should watch the June 8 House Financial Services hearings on Internet gaming, at http://financialserv.edgeboss.net/wmedia/financialserv/hearing060807.wvx . Other hearing info is at www.house.gov/apps/list/hearing/financialsvcs_dem/ht060807.shtml.

TheMathProf

Indeed, in response to CaroleeJam, regulation is the issue.

In discussing gambling, a lot of folks will make comparisons to various activities and try to make their case.

The one activity I've never seen the comparison to--and the one that I think presents an opportunity for the best long-term solution--is that of firearms.

The biggest difference between firearms and gambling is Constitutional protections. If firearms weren't protected in such a fashion, I personally believe that the folks against them would have succeeded in getting them outlawed years ago, using the same kind of hysteria that surrounds online gambling today.

And yet, our government has succeeded in putting reasonable checks on who can own firearms and how they're acquired. A background check is required. Felons aren't allowed to legally own or possess firearms. These are all designed to introduce some elements of safety while minimizing the infringement on our basic rights.

So now in turning to gambling, I believe that regulation is still the answer. I think that regulation would consist of a number of components, including but not limited to:

- Identification of the individuals engaged in the activity by name and photo ID (such as a driver's license).
- Identification of the individuals engaged in the activity by SSN (to facilitate the collection of taxes on wagering income where necessary).
- A method of setting limits on individuals who clearly demonstrate they need them, whether they be underage (which makes this limit zero) or problem gamblers (which may also make this limit zero).

The tax collections are important in this system for two reasons:

- The implementation of said system has real costs associated with it, and in order to continue to play, these real costs must be absorbed by the players who wish to have a valid regulatory scheme, and should not be borne by the public.
- The collection of taxes can also be set aside to fund treatment for problem gamblers, thus providing actual resources for these individuals who need it.

By failing to regulate the online system, but with actual access to the system still available, the United States has succeeded in scaring off many publicly traded gambling companies from operating in the U.S. Thankfully, many of the private operations that I am familiar with appear to be regulated by sources outside the United States, and accordingly, still function in a lawful and reasonable fashion. If they hadn't, the work done to ban online gambling would not only not help the problem gamblers, but also throw them under the bus to fend for themselves. As an earlier commenter pointed out, it's not the problem gamblers who would stop in response to the law, but rather the people who actually could practice it in moderation.

Problem gamblers need help, and saying that it's illegal doesn't provide the help they need. If we had banned all firearms, many would argue that only the criminals would actually have them. Not a comforting thought.

In any case, one of the reasons for bringing up a regulatory scheme such as the one above is that I think it needs to be extended for all gambling, not just online gambling.

So much of this discussion has focused on making a distinction between online gambling and brick-and-mortar gambling, but the truth is that they have many elements in common, and brick-and-mortar casinos don't necessarily have any protections stronger than an online casino does.

So, if the issue is gambling, why haven't we banned gambling completely? No casinos, no lottery, no bingo at the churches.

For some reason, we say that the same game online makes it different. Perhaps the easier accessibility does make it so. But perhaps some of the inherent advantages of having a computerized system for gambling can be used to compensate, and develop a better system to help gamblers--both online and offline--to avoid problems.

pokerdave

The only thing Mr. Clark has to hang his hat on is some "study" that online gambling is more addictive than gambling in land-based casinos. But what factors are taken into account?:

1) Online gambling is cheaper than gambling at land-based casinos. Take into account the gas to get there and tips (dealers).

2) Online gambling is healthier. With all the chain-smoking going on in land-based casinos, why should nonsmokers be subjected to it? Not only that, but people can get abused by fellow gamblers on losing streaks. lt's far less stressful to play at home.

Rick

I'm not for or against online gambling, but after reading the responses to this article, it is clear which side of the debate cares about society's best interest and which side is on a witch hunt.

Nearly every post from the pro side contains logic, common sense, and people speaking from direct experience. The cons, however, are like ostriches burying their heads in the ground, ignoring valid points made by the opposition. Their posts are ridden with personal attacks, logical fallacies, and flat-out misinformation.

The pros are calling for a comprehensive government study of online gaming, which should be much more conclusive than asking 30 people at a dentist's office if they gamble online frequently. Clark's implying that this is even remotely scientific is laughable. Clark cites a study with a sample size of 30 and completely dismisses the Harvard study, with a sample of tens of thousands, while refusing to endorse HR 2140. You would think that someone so confident in the harm gambling brings to society would support a study bringing the issue to the attention of our country's legislators.

I do not gamble on or offline (not even the state lottery), but I support individual liberty, and I find it scary that a misinformed or agenda-driven subset of the populace can shape American policy.

ASHMAED_TO_BE_A_US_CITIZEN

The are some important distinctions that some of you anti-gambling fanatics are failing to make, and it's really rather sad, and I do feel a little bit sorry for you (which is why I am posting this). I feel sorry for you because of your lack of intelligence and your inability to form solid logical arguments.

Here is one of the important distinctions I'm talking about that you are failing to make:

Responsible gambling vs. irresponsible gambling: 95% to 99% of Americans who freely choose to engage in the activity of gambling do so responsibly. They know before they even engage in the entertainment and discretionary activity of gambling the "golden rule" of gambling: Never bet more than you can afford to lose.

They are responsible adults and find gambling to be an enjoyable diversion, and especially in the case of poker, a fun social activity to engage in with friends.

I also know from playing online poker myself that it can be a great way to meet and chat with people from across the globe.

And so, let me attempt to describe/define "irresponsible gaming/gambling."
The 1% to 4% (5% at the max end of the estimate) of those that gamble do so with more money than they can afford to lose, and hence, if they lose they can financially devastate/hurt themselves (and yes, their families and their loved ones). They do so because of an addictive and compulsive personality, seemingly having an inability to make sound, informed, and responsible decisions on their own. Be it known that the availability of the gambling activity (the availability of the choice to engage in the gambling activity) is not at fault here. It is the irresponsible actions of the person that are at fault. (i.e., it is not the credit card company that is at fault for offering the credit card spending instrument that results in said irresponsible person's mountain of credit card debt; it is that person's lack of self-control).

And especially for those disadvantaged 1% to 5% of Americans who lack the ability to engage in responsible gambling, the online operators at the licensed and regulated legitimate sites (many of which are "public" companies traded on worldwide stock exchanges, and as such by definition are not permitted to engage in illegal and/or unscrupulous activity) have in place protections such as preset daily, weekly, and monthly deposit limits, not allowing anyone to lose too much money. The local convenience store that sells lottery tickets can't claim that, as well as the increased anonymity that goes with those bricks and mortar sales. Yes I said it: increased anonymity buying from a bricks and mortar store. Anyone who knows anything about online gaming knows that all transactions are recorded, monitored, flagged if appropriate, and reviewed later if necessary. Many of you anti-online gaming fanatics have it backward. The ultimate anonymous form of gambling is doing so in a bricks and mortar casino or buying a lottery ticket at a 7-11 with cash. The fact of the matter is problem gambling protections and controls, regulation and prevention of minors engaging in gambling activity, and taxation can all be done/accomplished much more effectively in the online world. This is good news and a potential "saving grace" for that 1% and 5% of the American population who are irresponsible and considered "problem" gamblers.

I assert this without hesitation: If my father or mother or brother or sister had a gambling problem and engaged in the destructive (for them) behavior of gambling, I would want them to do so online at a licensed and regulated operation. Because I
know for a fact that these operators would prevent my loved ones from doing "too much damage" to themselves financially (and perhaps psychologically) by not allowing them to deposit more than their daily, weekly, or monthly limit. I leave you with a factual story one of my friends had while playing online poker at a licensed and regulated UK site (this was).

Before the passing of the UIGEA, he made a withdrawal from the poker site (and typically there is/was a three-day waiting period for withdrawals at the site--any online poker player in the know knows exactly which site I'm talking about now). Well, my buddy asked if he could have his money now (without the three-day waiting period) because he needed it. Well, being the responsible customer service representative the person who worked for the site was, she asked my friend why he needed the money. He said he needed it to pay a bill. Well, once the CSR heard that, she asked a few more follow-up questions and determined that it was in my friend's (the player at that poker site) best interest if she cashed out his entire balance back to him and suspended his gaming account with the site. Once they got wind that my friend was or might have been using his discretionary gambling income to pay bills with, they immediately recognized a signal of a potential problem gambler (which, luckily my friend isn't). He just figured if he said that he needed it to pay a bill that they'd send it to him right away. This is a funny

Example of just how safe it is to play at a licensed and regulated legitimate and legalized online poker site or casino. Not all Web sites are licensed and regulated responsible and concerned operators, I grant you. And so it is on the governments of our countries (I am sadly a U.S. citizen) to heavily regulate, tax (lightly, if possible), and put in to place the legal requirement of the sites to offer protections to its citizens to enjoy responsible online gaming.

We are educated (well, except that G Clark guy), responsible (well, 95 to 99% of us), and sophisticated adults who choose to engage in gambling activity: be it poker amongst friends, table games at casinos (be it online or live), or yes, the "dreaded" slot machines. We do not "get nothing in return" for our money. Rather, when done so responsibly, we gain a great source of entertainment and excitement, and especially in the case of poker (a game in which I love), enjoy a valuable American pastime and social activity with friends. Many of us don't live anywhere near brick and mortar casinos, so by the passage of the UIGEA, the United States government has taken away the ability for the vast majority of us to wager in our online poker games. And so, you can understand, you anti-gambling fanatics, why many of us are "up in arms" and assert that a liberty has been infringed here--because it, in fact, has. And I will fight it until I see the day when online gambling (specifically poker) is legalized and regulated. I am a responsible adult, and I demand that I have the freedom of choice in this regard. I will not succumb to illogical and unfounded arguments from an uneducated few.

People, I urge you to make the distinction between responsible and irresponsible gambling. Don't lump all gambling into the same category--be a sophisticated and educated thinking adult and make responsible choices.

Next up I urge you to make the distinction between poker (a skill game, such as chess or golf) vs. casino table games and lottery

Tickets (games in which by construction you cannot win at in the long run no matter how skilled you are), but that argument I will make another day.

--ilovebadbeats

G Clark

In response to the statements in this debate that call the gambling industry "honest" and "responsible": That would be news to most people. There is no other industry licensed and regulated in the U.S. that has been involved with so much criminal activity and so much political corruption. In testimony before the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, former Illinois Senator Paul Simon stated that gambling "…has more of a history of corruption than any other industry."

As we speak, the FBI is investigating the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe in Massachusetts for possible criminal use of several million dollars from the gambling industry. Last year the Tonkawa tribal Casino in Oklahoma was closed by the FBI after it was discovered that it was involved with an Idaho tribal casino and Internet gambling outposts in the Caribbean in a Gambino crime family illegal-gambling and money-laundering operation. The year before that, we learned about the Abramoff scandal, which was all about tribal gambling money and efforts of tribal casinos to get Congress to eliminate competition from other tribal casinos. The Abramoff money was also reported to have bought Ralph Reed's help in torpedoing an Internet gambling prohibition bill.

Seventeen South Carolina lawmakers were convicted of, or pled guilty to, charges related to a federal sting operation involving gambling labeled "Operation Lost Trust." In Kentucky, 15 state legislators were convicted of, or pled guilty to, charges stemming from "Operation Boptrot," an FBI investigation centering on influence peddling and bribery involving the state's horse-racing industry. Nineteen Arizona legislators and lobbyists were caught on videotape by the FBI, taking money after agreeing to vote for legalized gambling. In Louisiana there have been dozens of state officials arrested on gambling-related charges, including state legislators, police, judges, and the ex-Governor, Edwin Edwards. The list just goes on and on every year. So much for "honest."

The gambling industry is also heartless. Studies in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand show that 35% to 50% of the proceeds in nearly every form of gambling come from about 5% of the population, the compulsive gamblers. This means that the gambling industry cannot prosper or even survive without the gambling addicts. It means that gambling addicts are the life's blood of the gambling industry. It's true that most gamblers are not addicts, and usually the majority of gamblers in casinos, on tracks, and on the Internet at any given time are entertainment gamblers. But those folks are only there for a few hours or less. The addicts are on the floor for the long term. The gambling industry knows this, so its programs of "prevention" and "treatment" are basically window dressing and public relations. They know, as do gambling treatment providers all over the country, that only a small fraction of gambling addicts actually seek out treatment. And most of the addicts relapse. Good for the bottom line. Casinos have been caught trying to entice gambling addicts back to their casinos after the addicts have gotten on self-exclusion lists.

All this insufficiency is with regulation and treatment in most states that have gambling. And you think that treatment provided through Internet gambling is going to do a better job than that provided by the states---on their own neighbors, their fellow citizens, and local taxpayers. The notion that Internet gambling will provide better treatment for gambling addicts is pure fantasy or wishful thinking. Local treatment and organization is almost always more effective than global or national efforts. For your information, NCALG state affiliates work across the country to encourage state legislators to provide treatment programs, and with gaming control boards, other officials, and treatment providers to carry them out (I have specifics if you are interested). We still think the best treatment is prevention. The gambling industry will do everything it can to extract all the money it can out of the addicts and recreational gamblers, regardless of the misery and destruction it causes.

DBass

"We still think the best treatment is prevention."

And I still think the coolest animals are unicorns.

Is there ever a point where you think to yourself, "Okay, we can't stop gambling from being available, so what is our next best option?"

The fact of the matter is, most of the backlash to this law is because poker was taken away. The elected representatives of this country arrogantly underestimated the number of poker players who are outraged over this, and they're starting to feel it. If the decision was made to attack strictly casino-gaming Web sites, they would have gotten away with it with very little problem (save for the WTO elephant in the room). Go after the sports-books, too, and there's going to be a bit more of a problem. Go after poker, whoops, a lot of legitimately angry people.

Personally, I can't stand it when our government tries to regulate choices that should be moral decisions; drugs and gambling fall squarely in that category. You seem to take the approach that I (and others like me) need saving and you're just the man to do the job. More power to you. I sincerely hope you fail miserably. As far as the assertion that members of the casino industry are only out for the bottom line--no kidding? Am I supposed to somehow be completely appalled that a business is interested in making money? Save it for someone else.

As I stated before, I am well aware of my odds at any of the casino games. Should I choose to participate with my money, it's my business. "See this game here? We are going to take more money from you in the long run than you will take from us." I find that kind of honesty refreshing, and I wish more companies would follow suit.

So in the end, your victory of the UIEGA was passed in the dead of night with no debate, and provides $0 for treatment programs.

P.S. Abramoff was lobbying to get lottery tickets sold online--winner.

pokerdave

Mr. Clark,
We can't go back in time. The gambling debate is over. Gambling is everywhere, and it's here to stay, probably online gambling, too. Prohibition very rarely (if ever) works. So why not regulate and tax it and have it at least in a proper fashion in our society? People want to gamble. If they want to do it in their homes, they should have every right. In my state of Arizona, there are at least half a dozen casinos within 20 to 25 minutes of me, but I prefer to play at home. It's cheaper, safer, and more healthy just to stay home and play, so why try to tell me I must play in a land-based casino? Because you think that's how it ought to be? Do you even gamble yourself? Doesn't sound like it, so I don't think you should have a say about what gamblers prefer. If gambling is so wrong, it should be outlawed everywhere, so let's save the half measures and hypocrisy. It doesn't wash.

KeithF

Mr. Clark,
The gambling industry does have a long history of corruption. Vegas was built by the Mob, no? But for anyone to suggest that the industry is still in the clutches of organized crime and corruption is just foolish. The gambling industry is cleaner today than ever before and gets cleaner every year. One can't point to an isolated incident every year as proof that "the bad people are running it."

Finally, this: "35% to 50% of the proceeds in nearly every form of gambling come from about 5% of the population..."

Well at least we're finally approaching more realistic numbers when talking about the proportion of "problem gamblers."

Can you link the studies? I highly doubt that half of gambling income comes from 5% of the gambling population, but can't really address it without reading the surveys/studies. That being said, even if you took away half of the current income from gambling, The industry still will be making a wonderful profit.

When Party Poker stopped taking action from the USA, its profits dropped from $4 million per day to about, gasp, $1 million per day (approximate figures--don't quote me, but pretty darn close.). I don't see how any business could make it only bringing in a million bucks a day.

Yes, online gambling can be regulated and problem gamblers given help, while the rest of us who play recreationally could still do so. They're both possible if we work toward that goal.

Banning it throws the baby out with the bath water. Can you see it? Nobody is arguing that problem gamblers don't need help and that casinos could and should do a better job of making sure they get that help in the future. We're just asking that the irresponsible behavior of 5% of the population not dictate a choice for the remaining 95%.

If your organization truly wants to help the 5%, regulation is the answer. The USA in all its power will never be able to keep the 5% from accessing their various addictions. It can, however, seek to identify and help them with their problems. Throwing money at blocking access to gambling is just wasting resources.

Focus on helping the 5%. Leave the other 95% alone. Seems it would be easier and much more effective than just tossing a huge net out there with holes big enough to drive a truck through.

All UIGEA did was scare away some recreational players. Your online pros (many of whom are posting in this debate) and your addicts still have easy access.

Again, if your goal is to help problem gamblers by trumpeting UIGEA, then the joke's on you.

Daved

I come from the addictions field. I have had this same fight on a daily basis with the alcohol and tobacco companies for decades. As a society, we are responsible for preventing gambling addiction and treating those who are truly addicted.

To prevent problem gambling, we need to effectively educate youth and adults about the dangers and warning signs of gambling abuse and addiction. We are not doing our jobs as a society on this. We need to build protective factors and resiliency factors in our youth (research and effective programs are in existence today), identify at-risk youths, and get them counseling and intervention early. For adults, we already have EAP programs and training. National and state targeted media campaigns can help in many ways.

Our society needs to regulate Internet gambling at this time through reputable U.S. gaming companies. There is no other alternative. These chosen companies need to monitor playing limits and establish credit cards specifically for online gaming with age verification and tax collection methods for payout. With all our technology, there has to be a way to do this effectively and accurately.

Addiction agencies need to work with gambling entities (state lotteries, Indian casinos, state casinos, racetracks, online gambling business)--not against them--for funding prevention and treatment programs and informing the gaming business on the most effective ways to educate our society about problem gambling.

Banning Internet gambling is not going to work, people. As a nation, we are losing out daily to European, Caribbean, and Asian nations on revenue, business expansion, job creation, and the creative use of technology. No matter what our nation does, Internet gambling is not going to be slowed in the long term--it is going to grow, and America loses out in every way. The rest of the world is growing, and the U.S. is fading away.

The massive nationwide England study on problem gambling that just came out today proves that the mass hysteria toward creating a nation of addicted gamblers through the Internet gambling is false and nonexistent.

Create a system for Internet gambling for U.S. citizens that protects and benefits its people and government.

pokerdave

Here is a point I don't think people have mentioned. The UIGEA is turning bankers into criminals. Congress in its infinite wisdom leaves it up to bankers to enforce its "pie in the sky" wish of eliminating online gambling. Banks are caught in the crossfire of a situation not of their doing with the downside of legal repercussions.

To stamp out Internet gambling, the measures needed will be far worse and drastic than anyone could even fathom. The cure will be worse than the "crime" itself.

IndyFish

Okay, I found some more I wanted to say.

Mr. Clark says: "As we speak, the FBI is investigating the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe in Massachusetts for possible criminal use of several million dollars from the gambling industry."

The FBI is investigating Glenn Marshall, former chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council, who took money from the gambling industry. Also for misusing $100,000 in state money earmarked for the tribe's museum. (http://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070915/NEWS/709150331/-1/SPECIAL05) The gambling industry (one gambling developer it seems) is the victim here, by the way I read the article.

"The year before that, we learned about the Abramoff scandal, which was all about tribal gambling money and efforts of tribal casinos to get Congress to eliminate competition from other tribal casinos."

Jack Abramoff was a political lobbyist working on behalf of Indian casinos. Once again, it seems to me as I read the story that the casinos were the victims. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Abramoff_Indian_lobbying_scandal) From the article: "Abramoff and Scanlon grossly overbilled their clients, secretly splitting the multimillion-dollar profits." I also seem to recall that Abramoff was lobbying for online lottery tickets to remain legal. Surprisingly, the UIGEA has exemptions for four gambling activities: the stock market, online horse betting, online fantasy sports, and online lottery tickets. Isn't that something?

I'm not going to delve into the rest of your alleged gambling corruption accusations. I don't doubt that some of them are true, which only makes a further case for regulation. If we regulate online gambling, then we (the United States) have oversight of those sites involved. They can be investigated, records seized, and (if found guilty) prosecuted and their license revoked.

Not so if all the online sites remain overseas, beyond U.S. jurisdiction. Do you think a private business in the Caribbean is going to willingly hand over records to our government? Maybe if the owners accidentally have a stop-over in the U.S. on an international flight and get arrested, but otherwise no. Right now there is no U.S. oversight, no protection for Americans who play that site, nothing a player can do if his account is closed and money taken by the site. But I suppose you would argue that this is better for the player than having a regulated system in place that offers said player legal options to recoup his money in a court of law.

And finally:

"There is no other industry licensed and regulated in the U.S. that has been involved with so much criminal activity and so much political corruption. In testimony before the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, former Illinois Senator Paul Simon stated that gambling '…has more of a history of corruption than any other industry.'"

Adding your numbers, I come up with at least 75 lawmakers arrested for taking bribes. Can government be considered an industry? Would you care to ban government, Mr. Clark?


random

Mr. Clark,
And yet again you refuse to do the honorable thing and not lie in your replies. So you say:

"There is no other industry licensed and regulated in the U.S. that has been involved with so much criminal activity and so much political corruption."

But you can only list a few examples of fraud or illegal activity, almost all of which involve lawmakers taking money from casinos. Are you aware that they also take money from big pharma and vote for pork barrels desired by pharmaceutical companies? They do the same thing as construction companies, the aerospace industry, and just about every other lobby out there. The only difference is that they're called donations. Our politicians are for sale, and your treasured right-wing lawmakers gladly took Abramoff's casino cash to sponsor their 2006 campaigns without so much as raising an eyebrow--and voted for gambling and lucrative casino deals with Native American tribes before they threw you a bone and passed a ban on e-gambling, since you've been begging them to do it for eight years. You annoyed them into this law, like all hysterical activists annoy Congress into doing wasteful and unnecessary things.

What you're essentially telling us is that lawmakers are really the root of all evil and their votes are for sale to the highest bidder. This is something we knew for a long time. If anything, the U.S. Congress is one of the most corrupt institutions in America, and all of your examples only prove that lawmakers will reach out and take money from anyone. If you haven't read BusinessWeek's "Shakedown on Capital Hill," you probably wouldn't know that lobbying and legalized bribes--err, "donations"--are generally wanted and expected by lawmakers who make no bones about asking for money to grease the wheels. How intellectually honest is it of you to accuse lawmakers of bending to gambling but not doing the same exact thing with every other lobby under the sun?

As for your statement that 35% to 50% of all gambling revenues in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand come from 5% of the population, didn't I warn you not to throw numbers around without being able to back them up with an honest study? Just like you said that 70% of Internet gamblers are addicts based on a study of 31 people living next to a casino, I'm pretty sure that these ridiculous numbers also come from some questionable study you bent over and raped for conveniently loud stats that have no relevance or meaning outside of some tiny sample of a population.

No wonder NCALG feels so at home with politicians. You're in a company of shameless liars who would say and do anything to advance their personal agendas. People just like you, Mr. Clark.

The Gambler

Mr. Owens' position seems firmly based somewhere between "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" and "the filing of unfair trade claims by the U.S. somehow disqualifies it from standing tall in support of the UIGEA." The emptiness of both these arguments is reason enough for the U.S. to continue to stand tall. As any responsible adult understands, there's simply no law that will entirely stop a targeted activity. The reasons for any law say something about the kind of community we aspire to have. The federal government is correct in opposing Internet gambling, and the only hypocrisy here is that many states encourage gambling at all.

Robin

The Gambler,
You seem to have the pecking order of powers that be a bit mixed up. The way our Constitutional republic works is that the people have all the rights (God-given or unalienable rights), the people then delineate some of these rights to the states, and then the states in turn delineate some of their rights and powers given to them by the people to the central U.S. government. So it's people>states>central/U.S. government.

As you can see, the central U.S. government should be the last entity in our nation to decide what we can or cannot do, as a nation, with our monies for entertainment purposes in our own homes. That is for individuals to decide for themselves. Case in point: Why is there no federal law making playing poker online illegal? And why is it that the vast majority of states don't have any laws against online poker either? The people have spoken.

R. Schulman MD

Buffalo, N.Y., is being ripped off by a new casino. Since it opened in July, 89,000 people have been there to gamble and lose. At approximately $75 a loss, $6,675,000 has gone out of the local economy into a gambling corporation's pocket. Yes, 25 jobs yielded perhaps $150,000 to the community and perhaps another $150,000 to other commerce (suppliers of food, etc.), and the city made approximately $400,000 from its cut. The net loss being, say $5 million.They placed it into one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, claiming it is "development." What government official would do that? One who is bamboozled (i.e., corrupted). No gambling corporation cares about the people. They are ripping people off with the government's approval (even our new governor took money from the casino operation), causing deficits everywhere and a bankrupt society. America can't afford it. The war has broken the bank for any decent savings. ABC: addiction, bankruptcy, corruption. All the pros above rationalized the discouraging societal ill infecting this and future generations. Do you want that for your kids? Offshore, online, landed, Indian, government lotteries, scratch offs, horses, and dogs are all disgusting contributors to a horrible future for so many. There needs to be prevention, treatment, and sanity, not greed.

random

So Mr. Schulman, if I'm hearing you correctly, we should also get rid of check-cashing and cash-advance shops as well as used car dealerships that are not part of a bigger dealership also selling used cars. Both set up in poor areas being claimed as development, both advertise aggressively, and both have very aggressive practices for getting the most money they can out of a client.

Cash-advance places can charge up to 300% interest on five- or six-day loans, more then a loan shark could ever dream of. Used-car shops in poor areas often gouge customers with complex leases and sell cheap cars devoid of warranty with more than 100,000 miles on them, trying to rake in thousands more on the inevitable repairs. Oh, and much of the cash goes to their parent companies, which could be in other states.

You know what's a disgusting contributor to a horrible future for so many? Being poor and the fact that every program that was designed to help the poor will only apply if you have less then $2,000 in total net worth (basically, anything higher paid then a grocery store bagger wouldn't qualify) and even then, they're horribly mismanaged.

You don't want to see millions of people who can't afford to gamble trying to win a better future for themselves in a casino? Great. I don't either. The best way to do that is to help them get work, get their lives on track, and not have to view gambling as the only way they have to get a ticket to the good life. As for those who gamble away a great existence, they made a choice to do so. Nobody forced them to do it. They did it to themselves, and they should take responsibility for their actions.

P.S. I was not exaggerating about 300% interest rates on cash-advance places. In fact, interest rates as high as 780% have been documented in at least one case of an injured Navy officer who had to be bailed out by a charity after he borrowed some cash. http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=nifea&&sid=ayYDo5tpjTY8

r. schulman MD

Please return to the seduction of gambling--its mesmerizing capturing of the desperate wishful thinker or escaper (rich people and poor are in this group, which equals 35% to 50% of casino profits, i.e., addicted), not someone in need of transportation who can't get to the suburban car mall.

Legitimate studies show that gambling addiction doubles when a casino is placed within 10 miles of a population center. Urban casinos do nothing for development--just harm the locals, with the disgusting OK of the government (which should be developing sound, helpful solutions to the poverty that surrounds us, not undermining the poor and vulnerable).

Rick

Schulman, I see a lot of numbers thrown around in your posts without any reference to where they came from. Simply stating, "legitimate studies show" does not give you any more credibility. As a matter of fact, the study recently published by the British Gambling Commission contradicts you. I suggest you read it.

This debate is about Internet gambling. In order to participate in gambling of this form, one needs a computer and Internet access--two things unavailable to the vast majority of the demographic that you say is most harmed.

You stated, "There needs to be prevention, treatment, and sanity, not greed." If gambling is outlawed, there will be no prevention, treatment, or sanity, but only underground operations with no oversight or safeguards in place for the consumer.

At least you are consistent in your distaste for all types of gambling, unlike many of our lawmakers and posters here, but the simple fact is that gambling and the problems that might come with it will not go away as a result of making it illegal.

r. schulman

The Center for Addictions in Buffalo, N.Y., conducted the study showing the doubling of gambling addiction.

Legality is a special issue for legislatures, who unfortunately have botched their decisions (i.e., have been corrupted) many times and states over. Stopping the spread of the "legalized" harm should be a goal. There is still tons of illegal gambling out there regardless.

daved

The study also found that problem drinkers had 23 times greater odds of having a gambling problem than individuals who did not have a drinking problem.

Then ban alcohol along with gambling, or identify these people and get them some help.

As a doctor, you should know that 40% to 70% of people in our hospitals are there due to a tobacco- or alcohol-related disease or accident. This is killing them, our health-system resources, and economic system. Obesity-related disease is close behind. And you're worried about the 5% of people who have a problem gambling?

If people want to gamble online, then let them gamble online. Don't take it out on the 95% of people who have fun doing it.

r, schulman

Ill health for any reason is my concern. Our governments have apparently given up on caring, and helped perpetrate the "small" disaster that gambling problems have caused adults and their families. The children will sadly follow.

marvin capehart

I am against any form of gambling.
Marvin Capehart

J.Coyer

Hey CB, the government taxes and controls alcohol and tobacco. Stupid argument.

Join the Debate

 

Participate More!

Please send us your ideas for new Debate Room topics. If you're an academic, association officer, or other industry expert and would like to write a Debate Room essay, send us a query. Questions? See the

BW Mall - Sponsored Links

Buy a link now!