Monday, October 10, 2011

The debate over playing poker online

I have never understood why playing poker online is considered a vice, a game of luck, and is ultimately illegal, yet states can go to great lengths to promote their many lotteries. This is hypocritical at best.  As an article in yesterday's New York Times' makes clear, however, these laws are clearly analogous to Prohibition: 
. . . the poker world now finds itself in a situation many liken to Prohibition. America didn’t stop drinking when the government outlawed alcoholic beverages in 1919. And, in this Internet age, it won’t be easy to prevent people from gambling online, whatever the government says. “It’s a game of whack-a-mole,” says Behnam Dayanim, an expert on online gambling and a partner at the Axinn Veltrop & Harkrider law firm. “They’ve whacked three very large moles, but over time, more moles will pop up.”
I feel about this the way I feel about alcohol, or marijuana, or even crack cocaine.  How to explain why regulations treat these various drugs differently?  

So here's the thing: some pretty powerful lobbyists have managed to hold Congress from getting its hands on the $42 billion dollars in tax revenue that online poker would generate over 10 years.  How much longer will these lobbyists manage to keep Congress at bay in these dire economic times remains to be seen.  

Could marijuana be next?  More importantly, where might Congress find any limits to this new found need to tax everything in sight?

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