Legalize Online Gambling

In 2006, the Congress which was then still controlled by the Republican Party, passed legislation (then signed by President George W. Bush) that explictly restricted internet gambling. The “Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act” (UNIGEA) did this by prohibiting banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions from processing or transferring gambling-related funds. While the 2006 law has made it virtually impossible for people wishing to place bets online for any activity other than horse racing to do so lawfully in the US, online gambling remains a multi-billion dollar industry offshore and in other countries.

Recently, Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation that would largely nullify the effects of UNIGEA and legalize non-sports, online gambling. The GOP and many right-wing lobby groups such as Focus on the Family and the Christian Coalition oppose online gambling and support empowernig the federal government to prohibit it and other forms of gambling. They can be expected to strongly oppose Rep. Frank’s effort.

Even though Frank’s bill (HR 2267) is imperfect — it would still prohibit betting on “sporting events,” for example, and it would create a significant new federal bureaucracy within the Treasury Department to regulate, monitor and collect revenues from internet gambling licensees — it at least will open debate on the question of why the federal government should be able to put someone in prison for wagering a bet over the internet.

What is needed is legislation that simply and clearly repeals UNIGEA and that repeals or at least curtails the 1961 “Wire Act,” which continues to be broadly interpreted by the Justice Department to prohibit internet gambling. In recent years almost every state has moved to leglaize some form of betting, whether by lottery, casinos or racetracks, and it makes no sense — if it ever did — to empower the federal government to continue prohibiting people from using the internet to place bets. If the only way to restore freedom in this respect is to put up with some form of regulation, let’s at least keep the regulatory aspect to a minimum and maximize the ability of adults to place bets online.

36 comments Add your comment

Jimbo

May 15th, 2009
9:23 am

You can’t do something that’s offensive to other people.. that’s wrong. I should have the right to stick my nose into every aspect of your life and judge you based on my own moral code (which, by the way, I don’t apply to myself) and then screech with great self-righteousness when I discover something objectionable to me. By all means, we should let lobbies and special interests guide our lives and outsource as much individual responsibility as possible. I pay taxes so the government can take care of me and make sure I’m not doing anything irresponsible, after all, I never got tired of my parents telling me what to do, so why would I want to bother with adulthood?

MikeB

May 15th, 2009
9:30 am

This is about the only thing I agree with Barney Frank on.

The conservative stance on this issue is a pure morality play. Freedom is about letting people make up their own mind about morality as long as others are not effected. Sure if a person gambles with money they have no business gamling with (house, care note, children’s educational fund ect.) if will effect someone else down the line, but who are we to restrict that choice online, while making it available in most of our states via the lottery, race tracks, or casino’s? To me the Bush legislation was first off ineffective, and secondly an appeasement to casino operators and Indian gaming lobby, and thirdly to old line conservatives who flaunt their morals like a badge of honor in public, but private are as depraved in their vice’s (if not more) as we are in ours.

Bob, I appaud you for raising this topic. Adults should be free to gamble in the comfort of their own home anywhere in the country, if they choose. End of story.

Californication

May 15th, 2009
9:45 am

They just want to find a way to tax it, dimacrats doing their job, how to fleece Americans.

Che was a homicidal maniac

May 15th, 2009
9:53 am

I remember when people were up in arms over the lottery. Yet the lottery sent hundreds of Christian kids to school on scholarship, including my sister. The only reason Barney Frank wants it legalized is so that he can tax it. Has nothing to do with personal freedom.

Fact: the government will bankrupt the United States in the next few years.

the evil rich

May 15th, 2009
9:56 am

If Barney Frank is for it, I know I should be against it. But, what’s that they say, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Che was a homicidal maniac

May 15th, 2009
9:59 am

I’m a Christian, a born again Bible believing one. I do agree with Focus on the family and other groups on most issues. I do not, however, agree with these groups getting involved trying to get the government involved. It’s always a double edged sword. Just look at the 04 election. Bush rallied the Christians and yet did not get a constitutional ban on gay marriage. We live in a broken world ruled by sin and therefore NOTHING Christians do can change that. People will always make their own choices whether right or wrong. I do see the harm in gambling but it’s not up to me to tell someone else how they spend their own money. They made it and they can spend it however they see fit. I do know the problems and addictions with gambling but it’s a personal decision to gamble or not.

But then again, the current economic situation we have today stems from OUT OF CONTROL SPENDING AND THROWING MONEY DOWN THE DRAIN! If a person has debt they shouldn’t be spending money in the first place except on their debt.

Jimbo

May 15th, 2009
10:14 am

Ironically, a constitutional ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional..

Dave S

May 15th, 2009
10:28 am

“While the 2006 law has made it virtually impossible for people wishing to place bets online for any activity other than horse racing to do so lawfully in the US, online gambling remains a multi-billion dollar industry offshore and in other countries.”

WHAT??? MOST OF THE MONEY BET AT THESE OFF-SHORE SITES ARE FROM CITIZENS OF THE US. GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT – INSPITE OF THE 2006 LAW THAT WAS PASSED. I havent heard of any person being prosecuted for placing a bet or playing poker online to this date.

You cant stop this online gambling sector. It has grown into a monster. US citizens should have a choice to participate or refrain. US business should be given the green light to create their own niche. This internet gambling law is another reason why so many Republicans have turned sour on the GOP values and morals platform. Throw internet gambling in with the abortion issue, stem cell research, immigration and a christian right agenda = a Democratic Majority for a decade+. Where did my freedom and liberty go GOP. Where did my GOP go.

Copyleft

May 15th, 2009
10:55 am

Your confusion, Cali, comes from your failure to recognize that liberals are the ones who focus the most on protecting individual freedoms. Republicans do not.

Libertarians often claim to, until something bad happens (9/11) and then they revert to form–”Constitution be damned, keep us SAFE!”

Jimbo

May 15th, 2009
11:44 am

Copyleft, plenty of Democrats voted identically to Republicans over the last few years. Giving in to fear is an American problem, not a partisan one. If it weren’t somewhat universal, we’d still have lawn darts.

Telecom immunity and the secretive crap behind warrantless wiretapping is an excellent example of both ends agreeing that their own agenda is more important than the freedoms of the people.

Brad Bristol

May 15th, 2009
11:46 am

Mr. Barr (as usual) has his facts wrong.
Perhaps he should take a moment and read the UGIEA law.

Bad Beat

May 15th, 2009
11:55 am

I wager daily online, and last year made a significant amount of money. I joke around and call it my “2nd job” but it really is and sometimes (even though I am winning) becomes tiresome. I have never had an issue funding my off-shore account, or receiving my winnings. You know why? Because the off-shore and overseas operators are always going to have or figure out a way around the U.S. banking e-commerce restrictions. I would gladly pay taxes on my winnings. Here is the answer: Quit trying to prevent something that you will never stop anyway, create a system where it can be taxed fairly, and everyone is happy. Well, Las Vegas and the gambling lobby won’t be happy and they are the people that are preventing it from happening today. Wake up everyone: only 4% of all sports wagering withing the U.S. takes place legally in Las Vegas. The rest is “illegal” with bookies, internet, and other means. You are not going to stop it. And oh by the way, the UNIGEA was slapped onto the back end of the Port Security Act of 2006. It was an anti-terrorism bill for port security that was bi-partisan and it was a “no brainer” yes vote for both sides of the aisle. Bush and the GOP knew it would pass, and tacked on the UNIGEA in a chicken s**t manner “under the radar” to get it through without debate.

Ben

May 15th, 2009
1:00 pm

This is a very simple scenario. Brick and mortar casinos with political access, like Harrah’s and Wynn, got enough congressmen in their pocket to pass this, essentially killing off many potential competitors for online gambling dollars. Once enough of the potential competition has died away, they will then tell their Congressional buddies to make it legal again, and they will immediately be the industry leaders since they were able to use the government to kill of competition.

Jimbo

May 15th, 2009
1:16 pm

So, you guys know the EU kicked us in the ribs because we’re violating WTO rules, right?

Which is sort of awesome really.

JR

May 15th, 2009
1:16 pm

Sure, Copyleft, modern liberals love the idea of protecting individual freedoms. They want to be able to live their lives as they see fit. The problem is that they want someone else to pay for it. I’m a conservative in some respects, but I prefer the government butts it’s overly large nose out of everyone else’s financial business (including the rich). So by all means, Internet gambling should legal.

timthebrave

May 15th, 2009
1:54 pm

The government needs to stay out of my pocket. I should be able to do whatever I want with my money as long as I don’t hurt anyone else. Legalize gambling, start selling beer on Sunday, and put a casino in downtown Atlanta instead of that sh&**hole that they call underground

wade

May 15th, 2009
2:33 pm

I generally disagree with most things the democratic party stands for. However, since the republican congress abandoned the idea of personal freedom of choice (by passing UIGEA — thanks, bill frist), I strongly support government regulation of gambling. The UIGEA bill was not even discussed, but instead slapped onto another bill around midnight on Friday night — very underhanded way to take away my freedom!!! Regulate — do not ban it. Thanks Barney!

Che was a homicidal maniac

May 15th, 2009
2:51 pm

Copyleft, are you retarded? Since when did democrats become the party of individual freedom?

Looks like you’ve been drinking the kool aid for far too long.

You should REALLY check out how the new administration has destroyed the auto industry and is about to destroy health care. Talk about freedom. NOT!

Che was a homicidal maniac

May 15th, 2009
2:52 pm

Copyleft, name one liberal idea that gives people individual freedom?

Bacrock and Hillary have both said that individualism is on the decline and that government should take care of people.

Che was a homicidal maniac

May 15th, 2009
2:56 pm

Obama’s barbed words worry corporate world

WASHINGTON (AP) – Relations between President Barack Obama and U.S. corporate leaders have grown tense in recent weeks, with business groups bristling over his sharp rebukes of lenders and multinational companies in particular.

Executives and trade groups that praised Obama’s outreach during his post-election transition period say they have felt less welcome since he took office in January. More troubling, they say, are his populist-tinged, sometimes acid critiques of certain sectors, including large companies that keep some profits overseas to reduce their U.S. tax burden.

On Thursday in New Mexico, Obama chastised the credit card industry for sharply raising interest rates or fees with hard-to-find notice. He said consumers should be protected from “all kinds of harsh penalties and fees that you never knew about.” Some of the dealings by credit card companies, he said, “are not honest.”

He tempered his comments, however, saying Americans must be responsible for the debt they incur.

“Banks are businesses, too,” Obama told a gathering in Albuquerque. “They have a right to insist that timely payments are made.”

The gentler remarks, after weeks of increasingly sharp rhetoric, reflect Obama’s efforts to avoid a full-scale war with business interests. He picks his shots, praising companies that embrace his proposals for health care and other matters, while hammering those that oppose him.

Some business leaders have focused on the harsh words lately, saying the president is being unduly divisive.

“It is traditional class-warfare rhetoric,” said Jade West, a lobbyist for the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors. “It’s a little bit frightening.”

Bill Miller, political director for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, called Obama’s remarks “an oversimplification of the real world.”

http://apnews.myway.com/article/20090515/D986IJJ00.html

Che was a homicidal maniac

May 15th, 2009
4:01 pm

Copyleft, you mentioned libs wanting individual freedoms.

Yeah, explain this one! I go on drudge everyday and I have NEVER gotten a virus. Liberals=stupidity.

U.S. Attorney’s office tells employees not to log on to Drudge Report

“U.S. Attorney’s office tells employees not to log on to Drudge Report – Jonathan Martin

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts directed employees earlier this month not to log onto the Drudge Report website with government-issued computers due to potential viruses on the site.

In an e-mail message sent May 4, Paul Harvey, an information-technology official for the Boston office, wrote that security specialists with the U.S. Attorney’s Office at the Department of Justice asked them “to reformat/reimage two computers because the user visited the drudgereport.com site.”

“Please avoid the Drudgereport website from the [United States Attorney’s Office] computers,” Harvey wrote.

Harvey said that if employees had a “work-related reason to visit the site,” access could be provided off the government network.

Asked why the conservative-leaning news aggregator and President Barack Obama critic was flagged by Internet security officials, Tracy Schmaler, a Department of Justice spokeswoman, said it was because “a malicious code was found contained in a Web ad on Drudge.”

Schmaler also said the request to stay off Drudge wasn’t politically motivated and said it was sent only to the office in Massachusetts. She also said other popular sites were later found to have potential viruses, including ESPN.com.

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0509/22574.html

The Snark

May 15th, 2009
5:50 pm

Legalize gambling? Oh hell yes. What harm has gambling ever done?

Next up: Whiskey and guns for teenagers!

Horsetoothedjackass

May 15th, 2009
6:47 pm

One interesting thing to note is that Harrah’s Entertainment is supporting Rep. Frank’s bill, along with Youbet.com Inc., which is a US-based, legal online betting site for horse racing. Both companies have stated that if online gambling is legalized that they would start offering online poker as well as other games (Harrah’s has in fact brought in former Party Gaming head Mitch Garber to head up a new division focused on web ops and the World Series of Poker [Which was helped big time by the various online poker sites sponsoring buy-ins and such for players.].).

The NFL has come out against this bill, which considering how skittish they are when it comes to anything remotely associated with gambling (Ironic, since the bulk of sports bets [legal or illegal] are on NFL games and the Super Bowl is the largest single sports betting day of the year.).

I think the gaming industry’s original fight against online gaming was more of a closing the barn door after the horses have run off sort of thing. The casino companies were caught by surprise on the popularity of the online casinos and wanted to stop them so they could muscle in on the action.

The thing is that despite the ban, Americans are still gambling online. Further proving that “prohibition” doesn’t solve the problem. There are plenty of third party sites that are intermediaries for American players and the off-shore casinos.

clyde

May 15th, 2009
7:10 pm

Internet gambling is a non issue with me and as long as it remains so,I don’t care what they do with it.I don’t want to see taxpayer money involved with the gamblers in any way,shape, nor form,though.

Jeff

May 15th, 2009
7:19 pm

I was so appalled when I heard this act passed that I immediately contacted one of my Senators (Dianne Feinstein) who, to my surprise, shot back that she strongly supported the law. It’s an outrage. Of course, we live in California where I have been pulled over three times so far strictly because I was not wearing my seatbelt. (I have a doctor’s letter excusing me from that requirement due to a congenital lower back problem.) As we must fight religious fanatics in Iraq and Afghanistan so too must we wage war against them here at home or all of our freedoms will be at serious risk. Bob Barr for President!

Caveman

May 15th, 2009
7:31 pm

“Yeah, explain this one! I go on drudge everyday and I have NEVER gotten a virus.”

You sure you’re not one of them there Log Cabin Republicans?

Che was a homicidal maniac

May 15th, 2009
7:39 pm

Caveman, nope. I’ve got me one of them there wifes.

Monte

May 16th, 2009
4:02 am

People cry about gambling causing problems etc. Do you know how many people gamble with local bookies on monies that they don’t have? At least with online gambling you must use money that you have and not be playing on credit.

Now for those that cry that gambling is bad for family etc. Let’s take a look at alcohol which we know causes illnesses, drunk drivers killing people which in return raises our car insurance, is addictive and teenagers drink alcohol.

Now let’s look at tobacco products which we know is addictive, causes cancer, causes millions if not billions of dollars per year in health care costs. The States sued the tobacco companies and got billions. Teens smoking is on the rise too.

Now what’s the difference between these 3? The Government isn’t collecting taxes on the monies spent with offshore gambling sites. So it boils down to money. And let’s not forget the hypocrites who legislate against legalizing gambling who in there own States have Casinos, horse racing, dog racing, lotteries and bingo parlors. All can be addictive, lead to money problems etc. So what’s the difference? Again is all about the money! These State senators and congressmen get monies from these gambling places in their States for his or her campaigns. Yet they have the nerve to say online gambling is a problem. This is a Joke and a double standard. If you can gamble like this at places all over the USA then people should have the freedom to choose to gamble online. If you regulate the industry then this Country will collect billions of dollars in monies each year. Plus to say that its fair to gamble in the USA at these places, but not online is unfair trade practices which the USA has already lost a case in the WTO. Yet they have ignored the ruling.

willgrey

May 16th, 2009
12:42 pm

I spent forty-five years and retired from the Gambling Industry, mostly poker in Nevada and California. Owned a poker room, Supervised Poker, and dealt poker for years. I’ve played on several sites on the internet over the years and although I have never had a problem cashing in my winning; I believe the poker sites should be regulated and licensed. Poker sites should not be permitted to allow employees or anyone connected to any poker site to play on that site. I have been fortunate enough to be a winner over the years, but I only play in the low buy-in tournaments and ring games. There are many poker sites I have barred myself from, I took this action because at one time or another action by a player did not seem kosher. I questioned some of the plays with the management and received answers such as those things happen in poker. Another thing that disturbs me is being moved to another table after winning a few hands when there is no reason to be moved, believe I’ve checked. These sites do need to be regulated, if I am correct in my opinion of some sites, which I believe I am, the following should be manatory. 1. Employees or paid players (Props) not permitted to play. 2. Only the shift Supervisor should have access to the reading of all players hole cards. 3. Poker sites are not permitted to move players from one table to another unless it is absolutely necessary. Poker Sites not permitted to charge a fee for collecting winnings. 4. Proof of age must be supplied to poker site by player. 5. Any player permitting an underage player to play on his or her site shall be barred for life from all poker sites and fined. 6. Each player should set a limit of deposit. 7. Player can only have accounts in three poker sites at one time. 8. The rake (monies taken from the pot to pay for playing) should follow the guide lines that are now in place. 9. Poker sites to pay taxes as well as players.

The Government will never stop the desire for American people to play poker, I strongly suggest that all poker players join the Poker Players Alliance and join the fight. Write your Representatives to support Barney Frank’s bill. Approval of the Government to play online poker is coming, just of a question of when. Willgrey

Jimbo

May 16th, 2009
1:20 pm

Snark, everything has the potential to harm. It’s people like you, who apparently think you can legislate and regulate all the risk away, that are ruining this place. People have to have the freedom to make their own mistakes and also the opportunity to fix those mistakes and learn from them. Besides the fact that bans haven’t really worked very well (drugs, booze, guns, gambling and abortions.. these things have always remained widely available even when banned). Also, teenagers aren’t exactly adults, except 18 and 19-year-olds and tell me things are better now that we allow people to drink at 21 and not 18. Further the military gives kids those ages access to some of the most destructive weapons in history.. sooooo.. I don’t know what to tell you.

Kenboy

May 17th, 2009
6:46 am

I don’t have an emotional investment here. Gamble? Gamble online? I think it’s pathetic, but my only advice is never bet more than you can afford to lose. As one commenter above noted, this debate is really about the money; i.e. tax revenues, not morality or freedom. Americans have no qualms about being single issue thinkers and there are ready analogies to other issues founded on emotion, but cloaked in the Constitution.

Do you think there will be a bumper sticker that says: “They can have my straight flush when they pry it from my cold dead hand?”

What I find fascinating is the fact that very few of the people who rail against UIGEA understand how little it does or realize that the banks are not yet complying with it even though it became law in 2006.

In essence, UIGEA denys access to the payments system for illegal Internet gambling. It does not make Internet gambling illegal. Any prohibition must come from some other federal or state law. UIGEA merely says if the payment involves illegal Internet gambling, the bank must block check, ACH, wire, card, etc. deposits to its commercial (read business) customers. It has nothing to do with consumer (individual) accounts. The law does not require banks to actively monitor business accounts, let alone consumer accounts. The banks that have purportedly contacted individual customers about suspected Internet gambling are as lost in the weeds as its opponents are.

The law does not say how the bank should know the payment is derived from illegal Internet gambling. As millions of financial transfers take place every single day, the idea that banks understand every point of origin for every payment is simply ludicrous. All the law does is require banks to put policies and procedures in place on what to do if they find Internet gambling, it does not require them to look for it. Their most stringent requirement is to obtain a certification from their commercial customers that their activities will not involve illegal Internet gambling.

For the banks it’s “checklist” compliance, not a search and destroy mission. The law that opponents hate so much is so watered down as to make it meaningless.

Moreover, although the law is currently in effect, bank compliance is not mandatory until December 1, 2009. In short, most banks are smart enough to recognize a political football when they see one; very few have made an attempt to comply early. In addition to his bill to legalize and regulate Internet gambling Rep. Frank proposed a bill that would delay UIGEA’s mandatory compliance date for another year. The near term barometer for this issue is whether that bill, HR2266, passes.

Alex

May 20th, 2009
9:11 am

Online gambling should definetely be legalized

Free Bankroll

Morris Walker

June 24th, 2009
8:02 am

It would be better if the government would just take action to regulate gambling instead of banning it either way it doesn’t harm anyone. Why not legalized online gambling if alcohols and cigarettes are legal?

Wolf Barks

November 25th, 2009
11:53 am

Legalizing gambling will definitely benefit a lot of people. Whether it is legalized or not, gambling will always be there. To protect the players from scams, online gambling should be legalized. I play at http://www.bingosuite.com and I use my winnings to contribute more to charities. If online gambling is legalized, they can use the tax for gambling in medical care, housing plans, and the like.

News « Wyoming Lottery

January 21st, 2010
4:19 pm

[...] In 2006, the Congress which was then still controlled by the Republican Party, passed legislation (then signed by President George W. Bush) that explictly restricted internet gambling. Read More… [...]

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