We can start with the reason I offset the word banning in quotes. Because the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (HR 4411) being debated in the House today would ban only the types of online gambling Congress finds objectionable. Poker and blackjack are banned. Internet betting on horse racing and lotteries are not for the simple reason that states have a cut of the ponies and the numbers. Let’s not pretend for a minute this is about morality or protecting compulsive gamblers. It’s all about protecting state lotteries and billions in tax revenues from U.S. casinos. Meanwhile, off-shore online gambling companies, which include Sportingbet PLC, a corporation publicly-traded on the London Stock Exchange, saw $4 billion of $12 billion in 2005 total revenues come from U.S. players, according to the American Gaming Association. Although these companies have stated that they would welcome legitimate status in the U.S., and agree to regulation and taxation, Congress remains hostile to them. Even conservative groups who oppose gambling on principle are unhappy with the bill’s selective definitions. “If you’re going to support legislation that is supposed to ‘prohibit gambling,’ you should not have carve-outs,”‘ Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the conservative Traditional Values Coalition, told the Associated Press.
Steven Titch served as a policy analyst at Reason Foundation from 2004 to 2013.