Rick Santorum would ban Internet gambling

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks during a campaign appearance in Fallon, Nevada February 2, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

Social issues have returned for Republicans as they start talking about how they want to run your private lives. Now they’re going after Internet gambling.

National Review’s Jim Geraghty wonders whether there might be a business-related reason behind casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s reported opposition to Rick Santorum. Take a look at what the former Pennsylvania senator had to say about gambling during a recent interview with Jon Ralston:

I’m someone who takes the opinion that gaming is not something that is beneficial, particularly having that access on the Internet. Just as we’ve seen from a lot of other things that are vices on the Internet, they end to grow exponentially as a result of that. It’s one thing to come to Las Vegas and do gaming and participate in the shows and that kind of thing as entertainment, it’s another thing to sit in your home and have access to that it. I think it would be dangerous to our country to have that type of access to gaming on the Internet.

Freedom’s not absolute. What rights in the Constitution are absolute? There is no right to absolute freedom. There are limitations. You might want to say the same thing about a whole variety of other things that are on the Internet — “let everybody have it, let everybody do it.” No. There are certain things that actually do cost people a lot of money, cost them their lives, cost them their fortunes that we shouldn’t have and make available, to make it that easy to do.

People who like gambling need to recognize that one party wants to tell you how to live your life.

  

Online poker to your state?

The Obama Justice Department has upended the entire online poker debate with a recent opinion that basically limited the scope of federal laws. Now the question is whether Congress will get involved, or whether it will let the states move forward.

The gambling lobby has a message for Congress as states line up to cash in on a White House ruling that in-state online lotteries and poker won’t violate a federal Internet betting ban: Deal now or get stuck with a bad hand.

A Justice Department opinion issued before Christmas has created a now-or-never dynamic on the Hill for lawmakers and lobbyists pushing for a federal Internet poker law as state and regional officials move ahead with online gambling plans.

Come April, D.C. plans to offer online poker and blackjack. Illinois intends to be selling lottery tickets on the Web by then, too.
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“The writing is on the wall. The states are going to do this,” John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, told POLITICO. “The first three or four months of the year is going to be pretty important for Congress to act.”
All bets are on some key lawmakers — some backed by Las Vegas casinos — trying to do an end-run around the DOJ opinion by pre-empting it with a federal law. That could set up a showdown pitting states vs. the feds.

Supporters of a federal bill say states aren’t equipped to handle the complexities of Internet gambling, and Congress needs to step in.

State officials say that’s hogwash, and the Obama administration has already taken the wind out of the sails of a federal Internet poker bill by clearing the way for states to start setting up their own systems.

The DOJ opinion dealt states already pushing in the direction of legalization — like California and New Jersey — a couple of aces by saying a ban on intrastate Internet gambling only applies to sports betting.

That frees up those states and several others — including Iowa and Connecticut — to follow Illinois and D.C. in the coming months by passing online gambling laws during state legislative sessions. Passage in each Legislature will be complex, but state lawmakers are extra motivated in tight budget times to find new revenue streams.

Regardless of what happens, it looks like momentum is heading in the right direction. Poker is clearly a game of skill, so policy makers need to concede that point and come up with a logical system.

  

Poker is a game of skill

Regardless of the idiotic arguments advanced by the US Justice Department, everyone knows that poker is a game of skill, not a game of chance. Nevertheless, the government is pursuing their ridiculous crackdown on online poker:

For years a massive Internet poker industry operated in the U.S., arguing that facilitating for-money online poker play did not violate any U.S. law. The U.S. Justice Department, however, did not agree with that position and on Friday federal prosecutors in Manhattan filed the most detailed defense of their view that Internet poker is just plain illegal, invoking country music and suggesting that La Cosa Nostra had infiltrated the online poker business.

The 51-page document was filed by the government in response to the pre-trial motions of an indicted banker and payment processor, who both became unlikely warriors in the long legal battle over online poker in America when they filed legal papers in October arguing that online poker companies like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker were not gambling businesses. John Campos, a former vice-chairman of a Utah bank, and Chad Elie, who ran a payment processing business, are the only two individuals who have directly stood up to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s April crackdown on the online poker industry in the U.S., which included the indictment of 11 individuals. It is because of Campos and Elie that the government is being forced to litigate its case against online poker for the first time.

In asking a federal judge not to grant motions to dismiss filed by Campos and Elie, federal prosecutors claim “the conduct alleged in the Indictment – a scheme through which the charged defendants abused the U.S. financial system in order to fund their illegal operations – amounts to clear violations of the statutes charged.” The federal prosecutors also claim that Campos, Elie and the rest of the U.S. online poker industry, are wrong to argue that poker is a game of skill and not chance–and thus cannot be treated as illegal gambling.

It’s going to be fascinating to see how the courts decide here. I want to see the testimony of professional poker players and their powerful argument that this is a game of skill. With that, the online poker bans might actually go away.

  

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