Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Another Slice of Pooh

My favorite libertarian recently posted an article on FoxNews (how do they still let him post there? He's clearly an apostate. But I digress...) about the sillyness, both substantive and political of the GOP's decision to ban online gambling (read: poker):
The people who are going to be affected by the ban are the millions of Americans who play online poker recreationally — and responsibly. But that $12 billion per year is going to simply dry up. Problem gamblers and minors will still be able to find places online to make wagers.

Any attempt to prohibit consensual activity is going to create black and gray markets. The legitimate, law-abiding gaming sites may now be out of reach for Americans, but that'll create a niche for truly unregulated sites. These sites will be far more prone to fraud, won't much care about the age of their customers, and customers who are defrauded will have no recourse.

There's also no telling who's behind them. But it's probably a safe bet (pardon the pun) to say that the people operating black market, blatantly illegal gambling sites will include a significant criminal element.
This being a topic on which I have some interest (former lives and all that...), I fired off an email, which he was good enough to publish:
Good article. I have two points to make in response - the first is that this is incredibly tin eared on the part of the GOP. My guess would be that poker professionals *should* be solidly in the GOP base - there is no more naked a form of capitalism then the ruthless meritocracy of poker. Yet, as you suggest, in a single move, the GOP has decided to jettison this group (a group with both visibility and money to spare to contribute to candidates who won't try and kill their livelihood.)

My second point relates to the notion that this is simply leaving tax revenues on the table. Yes, the operators of poker rooms won't pay taxes, but neither will the professional players. I subsidized grad school with online poker, and I always paid taxes on my winnings. Now? No way would I expose myself to criminal sanction by declaring "Other Gambling Winnings." And I don't think I'm the only one. Given the size of the market, that's significant tax revenue simply being left on the table so that state lotteries (or, as most poker players refer to them "taxes on stupid people")
and Indian casinos can maintaint their monopolies and we can "save the children."

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