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Senators Goad DOJ Into More Pointless Online Gambling Takedowns

from the wanna-bet? dept

As we should all know by now, any potential moral qualm, whether minor or major, is roughly infinitely worse if you add these magical little words to it: "on the internet." Oh yes, people, don't you dare be confused. Prostitution, drug-dealing, and ghost stories are all bad, but if they're on the internet then we must all wage sanctimonious political jihad against them. Left out of the above examples is internet gambling, the process by which people who probably can't afford to lose their money hand it over to other people in games of chance in which the odds are stacked firmly against the former. But, while most (all?) states in our glorious union operate a lottery, and many others are home to horse/dog tracks, OTBs, and some flavor of casinos, online gambling is treated as the stuff of nightmares. This has resulted in misguided applications of legislation to shut down internet sports and poker gambling sites, all dressed up as an effort to create a more moral nation, when it's really all the result of heavy lobbying by terrestrial casinos.

Somehow, the DOJ's crusade against gambling sites had reached a lull as of late. A couple of folks in Congress aim to change that with a sternly-worded letter to Eric Holder.

“We must act before we find virtual casinos making gambling pervasive in our society, invading living rooms, bedrooms, and dorm rooms across the country; a result we know the DOJ does not want to see,” the letter said.

The letter was signed by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who earlier this year introduced a bill that would overturn a 2011 DOJ opinion that opened the door to online gambling.
Thank goodness for the nanny state, here to save us from doing...well...stuff we want to do. I love the entire concept behind this now-publicized letter to the DOJ, which essentially says: "The common people are lowly animals and if you let them gamble with their money, instead of doing the sensible thing and gamble invest it in Wall Street, the moral fabric we have woven for these plebes will unravel like it was a Weezer song."

Here's my counter-argument: go to hell, Congress. A government this bad at spending the money they take from me probably shouldn't be waxing on about how I spend what they graciously allow me to keep. Lindsay Graham in particular simply doesn't get to make this argument, given his love of shilling for land casinos on a manufactured moral wave.
In March, Graham and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced a bill — backed by GOP megadonor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson — to restore the pre-2011 DOJ interpretation of the Wire Act.

In their letter this week, the senators wanted [sic] that the 2011 ruling if “left on its own, … could usher in the most fundamental change in gambling in our lifetimes by turning every smart phone, tablet, and personal computer in our country into a casino available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
Right! Those people should instead by driving to Sheldon Adelson's casinos to do all that same gambling that gives these congressmen the heebie-jeebies. That's the thing about trying to use morality as a basis for legislation: you had damned well better be consistent or you end up looking like a freedom-jacking bag of lies. All the more so when you're talking about telling the American people how they're allowed to spend their money.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Beech, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 1:25pm

    I've always wondered if tobacco lobbyists have anything to do with marijuana being kept illegal for basically the same reason. "People shouldn't be burning that plant and inhaling the resulting fumes, they should buy a different plant from Philip Morris to burn whilst inhaling the resulting fumes"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Trevor, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 1:26pm

    Well at least SOMEONE is thinking of the children!

    Because apparently Scholastic isn't...


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 1st, 2014 @ 1:27pm


    Right idea, wrong target. The people you want are in the hops and barley business....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), Aug 1st, 2014 @ 1:42pm

    Political response to the article

    "But, while most (all?) states in our glorious union operate a lottery, and many others are home to horse/dog tracks, OTBs, and some flavor of casinos, online gambling is treated as the stuff of nightmares."

    [Rapping on side-kick's noggin] Hello! Hello! Online gambling is competing with the lotteries, the horse/dog tracks, the OTBs, and the casinos. They're taking our money! Of course it is the stuff of nighmares!

    The last thing states and American companies need is to be competing with online gambling for citizen dollars! Allowing competition like that would be positively immoral. (Which is as good as any excuse for banning online gambling.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 1:47pm effort to create a more moral nation...

    I had to laugh at that. That ship has already sailed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    UriGagarin (profile), Aug 1st, 2014 @ 1:50pm


    I'd guess from random wandering round t'interweb that the tobacco companies wouldn't be that unhappy if THC heavy hemp was legal .

    Reefer madness?.. hmmm yes if you are predisposed to that , but no different to those predisposed to alcohol?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    UriGagarin (profile), Aug 1st, 2014 @ 1:54pm

    I do wonder about the gambling thing in the states though . Why ?

    I've heard its a sort of state based matter on what's allowed or not , so if that is right , why is the federal govt getting involved ? or have I got it totally wrong ?

    Don't understand what the problem is. Just down to not getting their share ? Or some moral thing ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 2:01pm


    Sheldon Adelson funds their campaigns and is in the process of vetting the next GOP presidential candidate. I'm thinking it's not a "moral" thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 2:02pm

    Re: Political response to the article

    Actually, the reasoning has nothing to do with competition and it has nothing to do with morality:

    The problem with online gambling is that it is harder to tax. The government gets a significant kickback from established gambling ventures; with online gambling, not only is this taxation harder to police, but there's less to collect money on in the first place. What do you do about site licensing? How do you send an inspector to visit the establishment? How do you license every physical machine/table when there's no physical presence?

    About all you can do with online gambling is certify the software, license the operator, and tax the profits. That's going to net significantly less money for the same amount of hassle compared to forcing everyone to go to a physical location controlled by the state.

    Personally, I don't gamble, (including supermarket scratch 'n win and day trading), but I've been exposed to the industry. It's part of the reason I don't gamble.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    Jane (profile), Aug 1st, 2014 @ 2:08pm

    Love this

    Hahaha I love this article along with all the comments they're great! Although you do all express a major issue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    jameshogg (profile), Aug 1st, 2014 @ 2:10pm

    Online gambling...

    ..isn't that like... Wall Street MMO?


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    UriGagarin (profile), Aug 1st, 2014 @ 2:13pm

    Re: Re:

    So what? what has that to do with gambling ? I don;t understand the issue?
    Why is online gambling a problem ?
    Why is the US govt so concerned ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    connermac (profile), Aug 1st, 2014 @ 2:46pm


    that one word is why he is against it
    some group sent him a lobbyist to wine and dine him as to why online gambling is wrong
    psssst "we will donate to your next campaign just do not mention us ok wink wink

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 3:37pm

    Re: Re: Political response to the article

    What on earth are you talking about? Everything online is tracked which makes it much much easier to enforce taxes. Especially compared to gambling winnings in a brick and mortar casino which often go unreported and untaxed. There is no hiding results online.

    Your entire comment makes no sense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    NaBUru38 (profile), Aug 1st, 2014 @ 4:34pm

    Gambling is a tax on the stupid. Is that fair? We can argue about that.

    Now, is it fair that private companies collect taxes?

    We can also think gambling websites as entertainment companies. The government may impose luxury taxes on gambling websites, right? End of story.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Easily Amused (profile), Aug 1st, 2014 @ 8:58pm


    It's the alcohol producers that are against maryjane, the tobacco co's are spearheading the stupid regulations on vaporizers

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2014 @ 10:16pm

    Every time this issue comes up about on line gambling, you can hear the hypocrisy drip.

    The US signed this trade agreement, you know like a global trade agreement with whoever is the signer on the other side for whatever nation/state agrees. That's pretty simple isn't it? You sign a deal to agree that both parties will honor the agreement... that is except the US doesn't always honor the agreements it makes.

    Back in 2003, Antigua and Barbados started a trade dispute with the WTO. It was about the US blocking off shore on line gambling. They claimed the US was violating international treaties by blocking those two countries from being able to access the US gambling market while leaving the domestic operations for gambling open.

    In 2007, after ignoring the WTO rulings on the matter, Antigua and Barbados were granted trade sanctions against the US.

    Antigua requested approval to achieve its concessions by suspending up to $3.4 billion annually in intellectual property rights with respect to American copyrighted and trademarked products under the WTO's intellectual property rights agreement, or "TRIPS". A decision by the Arbitrators is anticipated by the end of November 2007.

    In 2013, Antigua opened Megavideo, an on line movie purchase and download site that legally pays nothing to US copyright owners.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2014 @ 2:36pm

    Ain't Politics Wunnerful?

    Must have an election coming up sometime soon. The posturing has started and hypocrisy is running rampant, as usual. Why don't they just forget all this and concentrate on the REAL problems, like the border situation, or Obamalamadingdong's attempt to start WWIII?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    fred's blog, Aug 2nd, 2014 @ 11:29pm

    You are missing the point: Gambling and money laundering

    Governments know that some black-market activities generate serious revenue, and the perpetrators desperately need to do some money laundering so they can use the wealth.

    So, a primary reason to have government-sponsored gambling, with some pathetic return rate such as 70%, is that they at least get a piece of the action as the laundering goes past. Life gets even better if the govt and/or crims can rig the gambling to be more efficient in converting revenue: See this 2011 Wired article for more, including mentioning a lady (Joan Ginther) that has won prizes worth more than $1 million *four times*:

    But letting gambling come in from other juristictions means that the government misses out on its cut of the laundering action... so the Internet *IS* the bad guy, in this case.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    Niall (profile), Aug 4th, 2014 @ 2:53am

    Re: Re:

    Interesting, not in Europe at all, but then we have substantial public smoking bans.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    Niall (profile), Aug 4th, 2014 @ 2:56am

    Re: Re: Re:

    The Americans have this weird 'morality' where it is moral and good to own a gun and allow the deaths of loads of small children and other non-gun owners, but try to spend money on 'gambling' (other than the stock market) is going to destroy the fabric of the nation. Twisted Puritanism at its worse, and probably one reason we got rid of a bunch of useless colonies with delusions of religiosity ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    JBDragon (profile), Aug 5th, 2014 @ 3:40pm

    Re: Re: Political response to the article

    It has to do with protecting the Real Casino's in the states that allow gambling. Otherwise they go out business. Some have have been shutting down as there's just not enough business. That's a whole lot of TAX MONEY disappearing. People would rather gamble in their own home. A lot of these Online places are out of the country and out of the U.S. reach, let alone no way to TAX them or anything else.

    It's just the Nanny state in action, bigger Government crap. Taking care of the masses, Cradle to Grave, because Politicians know better then you do!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Racha, Dec 17th, 2014 @ 7:51am


    It is a really huge industry which should double in the next five years. Gambling has became a big hobby.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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