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Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling


President Bush signed the Port Security bill today. Tagged onto it is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act which essentially kills internet gambling in the U.S.

Attached to a port-security bill signed by President Bush yesterday was the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which prohibits online gamblers from using credit cards, checks and electronic fund transfers to place and settle bets. The law puts enforcement on the shoulders of banks and other U.S. financial institutions, some of which fought the legislation.

Who's responsible for this dog of a bill? Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.).

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.), said he opposes all gambling, citing its "ill effects on society," but particularly Internet gambling, which led him to draft the legislation last summer. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) attached Goodlatte's bill to the port-security bill to assure its passage and Bush's signature.

Just another form of prohibition, if you ask me.

The ban will not just affect U.S. companies:

Already, several online wagering businesses have pulled their operations out of the United States and some have collapsed, including publicly traded companies in Britain, where online betting is legal and regulated.

The legalities of online gambling are said to be murky.

In the United States, the Justice Department and federal courts are unable to agree on whether Internet gambling is illegal. The Justice Department maintains that the 1961 Wire Act, written to prohibit betting transactions via telephone, applies to the Internet. Courts have disagreed, saying that betting on sports teams over the Internet is illegal, but wagering on casino games, such as poker, is not. And though the Justice Department thinks that off-track and online wagering on horse races is illegal, it has never prosecuted a case.

Poker groups, which contend their's is a game of skill rather than luck, are lobbying Congress mightily for an exemption. Sorry, but if poker is a game of skill, so is blackjack and craps. They all depend not only on the luck of the draw or roll of the dice but what to do with your hand or roll once you get it.

Who's not upset about the new law? Casinos in Las Vegas. Were they secretly lobbying for the bill?

The major casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City and on Indian reservations did not take a position on the new law, said Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., president of the American Gaming Association. The group's reasoning: Less casino revenue comes from gambling, as entertainment, retail and other non-wagering spending now makes up 55 percent of the cash streaming into resorts such as Harrah's and Bellagio.

"The guy who comes home and goes to his den and cracks open a can of beer and bets on the Internet is not really our customer," Fahrenkopf said. "We never viewed the Internet as being competitive."

Goodlatte of course played the terror card to get the bill passed:

"All the problems that manifest themselves with gambling, even in heavily regulated states, are even worse on the Internet," Goodlatte said yesterday. "There are family problems, bankruptcy problems, gambling addiction, gambling by minors, using gambling to launder money for criminal and terrorist organizations and organized crime. It does not help our society." (my emphasis.)

When will our Government stop passing laws to protect us from ourselves? When we get these crazy conservatives out of Congress. As one quoted poker advocate says,

"We've proven in history that trying to protect the minority and punish the majority never works," Duke said. "The fact is, there is a certain percentage of people who have addictive personalities [and gamble online]. Are you going to pass a law outlawing online shopping? Or day trading?"

Radley Balko says it well:

his bill is paternalistic, moralizing big government at its worst. It won't eradicate online gambling, it will only make those gambling sites that are incorporated and publicly traded and regulated in countries like Great Britain unavailable to U.S. customers. But the $12 billion per year U.S. customers spend on online gaming won't dry up. Instead, much of it will now go shady offshore sites based in countries less steeped in the rule of law, meaning more potential for fraud, abuse, preying on minors, and involvement from organized crime and terrorist groups. Meanwhile, state lotteries (which studies show are among the most addictive forms of gambling) will exploit the exemption the bill grants them, and continue to spend millions of dollars encouraging their citizens to engage in government-run gambling, with far less favorable odds.

From House Republican leaders' baffling attempts to invoke the shame of Jack Abramoff and pass the ban in the name of "lobbying reform," to Senator Frist attaching the ban to a port security bill late at night on the last day of Congress, nothing about the way the GOP has pushed this bill has been honest. It is the height of hubris that the last law enacted by a party beset by charges of corruption and abuse of power was a moralistic bill passing judgment on the millions of Americans who play online poker and other games recreationally and responsibly.

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  • Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Oct 13, 2006 at 10:16:09 PM EST
    How many online poker players will vote against the congresscritters who approved this monstrosity? It could be millions and it could have a huge impact on 7 November, or maybe not.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#9)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 07:18:29 AM EST
    What the bill does is to make it illegal for banks to transfer funds electronically to internet gambling sites. The use of credit cards to fund internet gambling sites, I think, is also forbidden. From a practical view no credit company in the US will do that anyway because they lost so much money early on to bad debts. The question of third party transfer companies is not defined. i.e. Firepay, NetTeller, etc. Are these companies gambling sites? They all, at least to some extent, transfer funds to non-gambling locations. And how would a bank know the final destination? At least one gambling site has sent its customers information that says it won't accept Firepay, and Firepay has advised its US customer that it will not transfer funds to gambling sites. Another site has advised its customers it will accept NetTeller, but doesn't provide details. Since the law doesn't prohibit gambling, and since any bank sells cashier checks and international money orders are also available, all this has done is create a few problems that are easy to overcome, just slower. As to the US casinos, they are merely waiting for this law to prove unworkable, at which point the Congress will do what it wants to do and tax/regulate the process. Hello Cyberspace Mirage! As to who to complain about, I note that the Demos, those who scream about our rights being lost, did absolutely nothing to stop this from being passed. I think a new name for the Demo Party would be "Hypocrites Inc."

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#11)
    by roy on Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 07:45:49 AM EST
    As to who to complain about, I note that the Demos, those who scream about our rights being lost, did absolutely nothing to stop this from being passed.
    Attaching a POS law to a high-profile, important bill is SOP to skip debate and get it passed. Leave it to Jim to take the fraud at face value.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#12)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 07:57:34 AM EST
    roy - You are correct, and it illustrates that the Demos place politics above "protecting our rights."\ Thanks for making my point clearer.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#14)
    by Sailor on Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 08:30:32 AM EST
    You are correct, and it illustrates that the Demos place politics above "protecting our rights."
    or it shows that rethugs attached it so they could say dems were soft on terror if they voted against it. the rethugs are the ones playing politics by attaching a frivilous bill that paners to their base to one for port security. bills that have nothing to do with each other shouldn't be allowed to be combined.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#15)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 08:52:28 AM EST
    So, PPJ, it's alright for the Repubs to do what roy describes, but the Demos are at fault for not stopping it with a filibuster or some such thing. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Another segment of your 2000-part series "Sins of the Democrats", no doubt. If the sun were to rise in the West tomorrow, PPJ would find some way to pin it on the Democrats.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#18)
    by aw on Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 09:31:50 AM EST
    Hey, PPJ, you're in the comix. This Modern World

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#19)
    by roy on Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 09:36:43 AM EST
    It's actually a pretty good trick. If the Dems had worked against the ban after it's attachment to the security bill, it would be "they're putting politics ahead of national security". Since they didn't, it's "they're putting politics ahead of protecting rights". It's win-win for the GOP. Plus it gives our local Rightie loyalist the excuse to discuss how much to blame the Dems, without addressing the responsibilities of those who A) actually pushed through the infringement of our rights and B) did it such a way as to prevent opponents from actually opposing it, all to C) protect their continued authority to do A-C. And while it would have been nice if the Dems had stopped this one, when somebody kicks me in the shins I don't blame the guy standing next to him who failed to stop him.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#17)
    by DonS on Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 09:36:57 AM EST
    I used to be in Goodlatte's district, now I'm in the ajoining one. He is a goody two shoes type. His district encompasses the Jerry Falwell empire if that tells you anything. Here's the email I sent him: I am writing to record my objection to your sponsorship of the "unlawful internet gambling enforcement act", which has now been signed through the back door attachment to the "Port Security" bill. I am not a gambler, never have been, but believe individuals have the right to make choice about their own actions. For all the phoney excuses you site, you at least include your opinion that gambling is morally detrimental. You and I differ on whether politicians should be legislating morality. I don't need you to baby sit my moral choices. It is ironic that this most scandal plagued Republican Congress and Administration should close out its session pointing fingers at law abiding citizens because some "big brother" types just have to meddle in morality. I say, get your own house in order, if you can.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#2)
    by Gabriel Malor on Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 09:36:58 AM EST
    Brian, I very much doubt that online poker players are going to prove to be a a significant voting block in the 2006 elections, or any elections for that matter. However, I also believe that the Republicans--at least some Republicans--will come to regret this ridiculous law. Lassez-fair Republicans, that is, fiscal conservatives, have no patience for this kind of in-your-face moralizing by social cons. Moreover, though social cons may champion the law as upholding some vague "morals" with regard to the "sin" of gambling, this piece of legislation is in reality a result of Indian casinos hoping to make a buck off of the poker-craze which is under full steam at the moment.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 09:36:58 AM EST
    Craps is not a game of skill, at least not beyond the skill it takes to simply not play at all if you wish to avoid bets with negative expected value. Any bet, once placed, commits you to the outcome of a series of random events over which you have no control whatsoever. The fact that you have the option to make additional bets with the same feature while earlier bets are still pending is a red-herring -- no skill is introduced by this (again, beyond the skill required to not bet at all). Blackjack has an element that can be called skill, but is still importantly different than poker. Blackjack is a solitaire game (typically played in parallel) where the goal is perfect play. The house is not really a "player" as they make no decisions. Except for cheating concerns, the customer could "control" the dealer's cards and the game would be theoretically the same. Poker, by virtue of being a non-trivial contest among multiple players with decision making power is a genuine game of skill. If you were writing a law, you would not have to work that hard to define "game of skill" in such a way to include poker and exclude craps (trivial) or blackjack (a bit harder). At worst, you could quibble with calling the distinction about skill -- but poker and blackjack are fundamentally different kinds of games. [all of the above is subject to certain unstated (but reasonable) assumptions about goals -- in any given gambling game there's skill involved in knowing how to have a good time, for example.]

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#4)
    by paige on Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 09:36:58 AM EST
    Paraphrasing Eric Massa, Democratic candidate for the House from NY-29, who said on a local radio show: "This is another case of Congress taking their eye off the ball. Instead of protecting minors (pages), they want to tell adults how they can and cannot spend their money."

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#5)
    by jazzcattg1 on Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 09:36:58 AM EST
    Either the US government was tired of losing out on the taxes of the winnings or the fundamentalist nuts are starting a new Prohibition - probably a combination of both

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#6)
    by DonS on Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 09:36:58 AM EST
    I used to live Goodlatte's district; now I'm in the ajoining one. Believe me, Goodlatte didn't foster this bill to help Vegas. The guy is a humorless, "goody two shoes" moralizer.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#7)
    by scribe on Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 09:36:58 AM EST
    Let's not forget a couple salient points here: Frank J. Fahrenkopf was, some years back, a major Repug figure, the head of the RNC, I think. Then he went to work for the casinos. He has spent his professional life working to enhance and expand the Repugs and their influence. It is no coincidence he's working for the "gaming" industry. It's where the money is. And a lot of that money goes to Repugs. And, directly or indirectly, they get a cut off the private gambling concessions they write into the law. E.g., in Pennsylvania, there's a movement afoot to legalize (and license) slots (it's pretty well along). In writing the bill, the sponsors wrote in provisos that enabled them (and fellow pols) to own a percentage of the licensees. Second, I wholeheartedly concur with the criticism of state-run gambling. It really winds up being a means of transferring wealth from those who play, to those who collect. It's an extractive industry. A long time ago, I did collections litigation for a number of casinos; we had a wall of files which consisted of summons and complaint, proof of service, default judgments and domestications in whatever state the debtor lived in. Someone would refinance or sell a house, we'd get a call, calculate the interest, send a fax, get a check. Just that. The court system was a judgment factory, and ruined lives and finances the ultimate product. I used to be amused with pols showing up to hail the arrival of one form of gambling or another, touting the "jobs" it will create or whatever. But, I'm old enough to remember when the pols (sometimes the same guys) showed up to welcome the opening of new factories, and went on raids against gambling. I stopped being amused a long time ago.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 09:36:58 AM EST
    I'm not inclined to come to the defense of on-line gambling. (He said, firing up a Marlboro Light.)

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#10)
    by DonS on Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 09:36:58 AM EST
    I think the point is, thugs or dems, stay out of decision making based on personal morality. The thrust of the bill is to prevent behavior -- or make it very inconvenient -- because Goodlatte has problems with gambling. My email to Goodlatte: I am writing ro record my objection to your sponsorship of the "unlawful internet gambling enforcement act", which has now been signed through the back door attachment to the "Port Security" bill. I am not a gambler, never have been, but believe individuals have the right to make choice about their own actions. For all the phoney excuses you site, you at least include your opinion that gambling is morally detrimental. You and I differ on whether politicians should be legislating morality. I don't need you to baby sit my moral choices. It is ironic that this most scandal plagued Republican Congress and Administration should close out its session pointing fingers at law abiding citizens because some "big brother" types just have to meddle in morality. I say, get your own house in order, if you can.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#13)
    by Edger on Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 09:36:58 AM EST
    I think a new name for the Demo Party would be "Hypocrites Inc." Those evil democrats are at it again, are they? Gawd, these guys are like a bad virus. "Hypocrites" is far too kind a term for them. "The condemned" has a much nicer ring to it: These guys should be given a quick fair trial and a last cigarette. For all those who scream about our rights being lost, by tonight Faux Snooze should be able to straighten out all their viewers on just who is responsible for this travesty. You know, the bills sponsor: Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (D-Va.). Just like that other evil, immoral democrat that Fox exposed last week when Bill O'Reilly did a piece about Mark Foley. This was the graphic. [graphic reads "Mark Foley (D-FL)"]

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#16)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 09:36:58 AM EST
    "I note that the Demos, those who scream about our rights being lost, did absolutely nothing to stop this from being passed." A republican congressman molests pages, the party leadership covers it up, and it's the democrats' fault. N. Korea sets off a bomb in the 6th yr. of the Bush presidency, and it's the democrats' fault. Republicans sneak a travesty of a morality law into an antiterrorism bill to get it passed, and, yep you guessed it, it's the democrats' fault. hahahaha.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#20)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 09:14:14 AM EST
    et al - Leave it, like it or lump it... The Demos brag, as you do here, about protecting our "rights." They let this one slide away without even a whimper. That's just a fact.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#21)
    by Edger on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 09:50:10 AM EST
    Congress passed an amended version of H.R. 4411, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), Sept. 30 after it was attached to an unrelated Homeland Security bill entitled the Port Security Improvement Act (H.R. 4954). The bill is expected to be signed into law by President George W. Bush by mid-October. Despite expectations that the U.S. Senate would block the legislation due to a lack of parliamentary time, Senate Majority leader Bill Frist (R - Tenn.) managed to negotiate the passage of the amended H.R. 4411 by attaching it to H.R. 4954, a bill intended to increase security at U.S. ports. Frist had first attempted to attach the bill to defense legislation in Sept., but failed.
    H.R. 4411 was originally voted on back in July with the following recorded roll call vote: House Vote 363: Jul 11, 2006 (109th Congress) H.R. 4411: Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act (Vote On Passage) Ayes: 317 Nays: 93 Democrat: Aye:115 Nay:76 Absent:10 Republican: Aye:200 Nay:17 Absent:12 ====== Them are facts. Lump it.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#22)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 10:57:36 AM EST
    edger - We know that the Repubs supported it. We also know that the Demos did nothing to block it. The Demos, the party dedicated to protecting our rights, especially if they also protect terrorists rights, went into the tank. They said nothing. They did nothing. Couldn't Reid at least threaten a filibuster? Alas no. Now those are the facts, dear edger. You can posture. You can claim. You can run. But you can't hide.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#25)
    by glanton on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 12:03:38 PM EST
    when somebody kicks me in the shins I don't blame the guy standing next to him who failed to stop him.
    That's about the only reason left for voting Democratic anymore; this roll over-and-die moment is microcosmic of their entire ethos, but at least they don't actually do the damage. Not a very good one, but a indisputably well-founded reason, and one that will inspire some at the polls I suppose. It's not enough to inspire me though. I'll be joining millions in finding more rewarding things to do on November 7th. One reason why the GOp will retain.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#24)
    by Edger on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 12:35:24 PM EST
    Reid at least threaten a filibuster? Sure. On the Port Security Improvement Act? You would have loved the democrats to do that. You guys would go apoplectic and be having strokes by now, crying "why do the dems love the terrists?" Face it. The rethugs lie you into a war. Wiretap you. Gut the constitution. Search you and arrest you without warrants or charges. Grab you off the street out of a public demonstration if you oppose them. Deny you the right to a defence lawyer. Eliminate habeas corpus so they can lock you up and throw the key away forever, and torture you for fun if you complain about it. And bankrupt the country while they're at it. And now they take away your favorite pasttime and you snivel and whimper for the democrats to save your sorry a$$? You made your bet when you supported them. As someone else said here the other day, if you don't like it, look in a mirror, then go whine to the snotballs. Good luck. Let us know how you make out. If they let you, that is... But, there, there. Don't worry about a thing. Everything is going to be fine. The left will win your war on terror game for you, and put the country back together for you. By booting out the rethugs in November and castrating Bush. :-) Go back to sleep now. My sincere sympathies.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#26)
    by Edger on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 02:17:40 PM EST
    Nice article, Kevin! :-)

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#27)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 03:10:28 PM EST
    DA - The Repubs and the Demos both want to get elected and will do whatever necessary to do so. I am surprised that, at this late date you do not understand this. BTW - As I have noted in the past, I'm not into video games, so internet poker doesn't flick my bic. I am fortunate in living quite close to a card room with plenty of live, loose and profitable action. I do regret that this may slow the number of new players entering the game. However, if you get desperate, you can fund your favorite site with IMO's and/or cashier checks. All available and all legal. Just a little slower. And you can use your credit card to withdraw cash to buy the IMO/cashier checks with. edger - Thanks for admitting that the Demos have put politics above protecting our rights. glanton - Works for me, but if the guy standing there is continually bragging about protecting my shins I will call him a hypocrite.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#28)
    by glanton on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 03:53:52 PM EST
    Jim, As will I. And that is what I do call the Democratic Party today. Repeatedly. In ways its almost better here in Texas having a one party system. At least then there's less illusion of respect for civil liberties. BTW: I find it interesting that, once again, your engagemtn with social issues always seems to come back to your own personal situation. You have a good thing going so it's no big deal. You're not gay, not a woman, not really anything that the typical Texan would find "weird." So that makes everything okay. Good barometer for the Uhmerikkahn pulse, you.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#30)
    by Edger on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 04:27:31 PM EST
    if the guy standing there is continually bragging about protecting my shins I will call him a hypocrite. Oh. You mean like this guy. Thanks for clearing that up. President's Remarks at the 2004 Republican National Convention:
    "I believe the most solemn duty of the American president is to protect the American people.... ...I wake up every morning thinking about how to better protect our country."
    I will call him a hypocrite. Take your time... you've still got about 22 days yet. Lots of time to pretend you were onto them the whole time. (you can fake this part if it's easier for you - just like this guy does)

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#31)
    by Sailor on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 06:37:23 PM EST
    We know that the Repubs supported it.
    'nuff said.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#32)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 08:22:20 PM EST
    What is internet gambling with real money except for a way to create gambling addicts? If people like to play poker, they can play with tokens in gamerooms. What is the positive gain in allowing unrestrained internet gambling?

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#33)
    by roy on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 09:15:55 PM EST
    What is the positive gain in allowing unrestrained internet gambling?
    Not being micromanaging, condescending, market-interfering, holier-than-thouing nannies?

    I'm Shut Down (none / 0) (#34)
    by kdog on Mon Oct 16, 2006 at 02:22:01 PM EST
    I got an email on Friday from the site I play on....they will no longer accept my deposits, though I can continue to play with the funds I have on account.  Hope I don't hit a losing streak or I am s.o.l.

    Thanks again Uncle Sam..the way you attack my vices, I'm starting to think you have a personal vendetta against me...lol.

    Poker player's best chance is that the banking industry drags their feet on enforcement.  I get the feeling they are as unhappy about this as poker players.

    Re: Say Goodbye to Internet Gambling (none / 0) (#35)
    by scribe on Wed Oct 18, 2006 at 11:06:03 AM EST