Despite internet gambling having become a $12 billion industry Congress is still attempting to enforce or outright ban Americans participation in online gaming and poker with the introduction of several new bills to committee.
Due to the “bet taking” side of online gaming being banned by the American government gambling proprietors have moved to offshore countries where gambling is still legal and with Americans projected to send approximately $6 billion to these companies this year several new bills have been passed on to Committee in what seems a vain attempt to ban the “bet-placing” side of online gaming.
Alarmingly, Congressman Jim Leach’s new bill, known as H.R. 4411, was passed through the House Financial Services Committee by a voice vote on 15th March. The bill looks to make it illegal for gambling operators to accept financial transactions in the form of credit cards, checks, wire transfers and electronic fund transfers (EFTs) and seems to be just one step on the road to an outright ban for Americans to gamble online.
Interestingly if the new bills are passed then not all internet gambling would be banned; state lotteries (although still gambling) will most likely still be able to sell tickets online, convenient for the state governments now so used to the huge amount of money generated from them. Horse racing also looks to be left out, being governed under another segment of US law.
Even though Rep. Leach’s bill has passed committee and now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration does not mean it will come to a vote. Many of the bills passing to the House do not reach any further and although there are many different reasons for this one main factor is public opinion.
There will be many Americans looking to fight this and all similar bills and one organization The Poker Players Alliance, already lobbying in Washington, will certainly be fighting the initiative. “It is disingenuous to oppose Internet gambling and then write a bill that makes select forms of online gambling legal,” said Michael Bolcerak, president of the organization.
The only member of the House Financial Services Committee to oppose Leach’s bill was Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank who is adamant about not infringing on the rights of adult Americans, believing it is not the government’s decision how Americans want to spend their hard earned money, “Adults are entitled to do with their money what they want to do.
“I do not gamble myself, but I do not see it as my job, as a member of the Congress of the United States, to interfere with the freedom to gamble of other adults.
“The fact that people gamble more than they should does not seem to me a fit subject for a legislative prohibition any more than the fact that people eat more than they should, read what they shouldn’t read, go to movies they shouldn’t go to or do things that many of us think unwise and inappropriate.
“It seems to me that the approach of many of my liberal friends to gambling is akin to that of some conservatives to sex-related material,” Frank added. “Mainly because they disapprove of it personally, they think we can prohibit other people from doing it.”
The ironic thing is that, as legitimate businesses, online gaming sites are crying out to be legalized and regulated by the US authorities. This would allow them not only to set up shop in the US but to also contribute to the US economy, be regulated by US markets and be subjected to US courts, all aiding the increasingly responsible nature of such businesses and increasing the general public’s recourse.
However it seems Congress will battle on, adding more fuel to the fire that we, the American public, are irresponsible and need be told how to spend our money.