Is online gambling really the public menace the HR says it is?

Well, it appears the U.S. House Of Representatives has got its panties in a twist about online gambling, for they have just passed a bill of prohibition which will be submitted to the Senate for action.

Not being involved in it myself, I don’t see much of what goes on, but I find it hard to believe it’s the public danger it’s purported to be. Additionally, the federal government doesn’t normally legislate against vice, leaving that to the states. True, there’s the War On Drugs, but I consider that a special case because it resulted, IMO, from a perceived urgent need affecting the entire nation. (I don’t agree with most aspects of drug prohibition, but can still understand how it’s perceived to be a problem that only prohibition can solve). And there was alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, but that has been mostly considered a failure since it was repealed.

So what’s the deal here? Is it really just the conservative congresscritters pandering to the emotions of social conservative voters?

I suppose that on-line gambling could be a problem if a teenager gets hold of a parent’s credit card and has an Internet connection.

But of course the politicians just scent another publicity stunt (as they always do). :rolleyes:

I don’t understand how you can say that prohibition is the only answer to drugs. Firstly legalisation is a major alternative.
Secondly Prohibition wasn’t mostly a failure - it was a complete disaster.

Don’t assume it breaks down like that. These types of issues are often of the result of weird types of alliances. I think libertarians are the only ones that you could reliably predict to be against it. Other groups such as parent organizations, legitimate casino owners and others all fall in different places for their own reasons. State and federal governments don’t usually have much problem with gambling on their own carefully crafted terms so the real issue breaks down to access, money, and control.

Yeah, the casino owners here in Nevada are pretty pissed about online gaming - they don’t have a corner on it.

I don’t think it’s any more of a menace than any other form of gambling, except that you don’t have to fly to Nevada or Atlantic City to do it. It’s either the puritanicals amongst us, or the billionaires. Or both.


Is it even possible to enforce a gambling ban? Most of those sites operate from off-shore servers, don’t they? In that case, does US Law have any dominion over them? Or are they making it illegal to partake of online gambling?

Regardless, it’s yet another grandstanding collosal waste of time that always seems to happen about this time in an election year. If it’s not creating a record for supporting moral values on their part, it’s creating a record of their potential rivals voting against decency and apple pie.



American RadioWorks had an interesting documentary recently. It focused largely on teens and online poker.

I don’t want to hijack my own thread too much, but I must address both of these statements.

I didn’t mean to give the impression that I believed that prohibition was the only workable approach to the drug problem, just that I could understand how many people might perceive that to be the case. Broadly speaking I’m pro-legalization, though I have definite ideas about how I would want such drugs regulated in such a context.

On the contrary, in the beginning it did bring about a drop in consumption and alcohol-related problems. It also worked pretty well in areas and locales where people were broadly for it. So it wasn’t a complete failure, but the unintended consequences certainly were disastrous on many levels. Here, again, I disagree with prohibition in principle, but it wasn’t absolutely a failure.

Are they really pissed? Doesn’t seem to me like Nevada’s casinos have a corner on much of anything anymore. I’m in L.A., and if I wanted to gamble I can think of at least three casinos I could go that are much closer than Vegas, and one is less than 100 miles away.

Good point, and I did think of it. But there’s been a similar danger ever since the first online retailer took off.

This is simply the result of an activity representing big money getting away from the IRS and the rest of the government. They don’t like these things when they can’t just whip out their regulations when they need to. Similar things are Indian reservation or internet cigarettes that they stomp out when it gets too big. It obviously isn’t the smoking, it is the lost tax money and control by the ATF and the states. Internet casinos allow money to flow unchecked in and out of the U.S. without the IRS being able to track it. The real casinos report big wins to the IRS directly. The IRS doesn’t like very hidden sources of income or losses. They may use the guise of protecting the gambler but the big internet casinos are pretty reputable as far as I know.

Think they’re not pissed about that, too? Anything that takes potential gambling profits out of their pockets pisses them off.

Nevada’s economy depends on gambling and other forms of tourism. If we lost that entirely, if it was legal everywhere, Nevada’s economy would collapse. But in all honesty, I really don’t see online gaming as a huge issue. A lot of the people who fly in to gamble (or move here) are senior citizens, and a lot of them don’t have access to the Internet. In thirty years, when everyone alive knows how to operate Internet Explorer, Nevada might have a problem. But not now.


I think the plan here is to outlaw the use of a credit card to finance online gambling. Not sure how effective that would be, as other methods of payment could be arranged or offshore credit card companies may spring up…

Probably. There are, however, some legitimate concerns (I play poker online, but the following works for all online gambling.):

[ol][li]Online poker seems more abstract than actual poker with chips, etc. You just see the same interface and numbers next to names. It doesn’t really feel like you’re dealing with money. As such, some people are more prone to lose greater amounts of money.*[/li]
[li]Fraud is as easy as sitting at a table, opening up AIM, and telling your friends what you have. It’s impossible to stop. I was particularly struck by this when I started playing at a table and realized I was playing with a guy who lived across the hall from me. We could have opened up the door and yelled “I have a flush” or whatever.[/li]
[li]It’s easier to play impulsively. I can sign on and lose all of my money in the time it would take to drive to the nearest casino.[/li]
[li]Kids can play even without benefit of a good fake ID. There is no way to tell whether or not a player is just lying. The sites ask “Are you 18?” and you say “Yes”, whether you can prove that is never an issue.[/li]
[li]Look at point #2, and let that sink in. I immediately thought about how easy cheating would be, and I’m an honest player. There are thousands of unscrupulous players out there who would have jumped at the chance to cheat.[/li]
[li]If legislated, it must be at a federal level. Individual states have little to no ability to impact what is on the internet, whereas the United States has at least some ability to do so.[/ol][/li]
Additionally, online poker sites are generally for ages 18+, whereas casinos are age 21+. This isn’t in the list, since an age limit could be imposed without an outright ban.

From a practical standpoint, it’s impossible to stop online gambling. Many (most?) of these sites are located overseas, including pretty much all of the ones that you see advertised on TV. I believe that PokerStars is run by a legal, publicly traded British company. And unless the Congress wants to cut the fiberoptic lines out of the country, they can’t stop people from playing.

All that said, I’m against the ban, especially when lotteries are legal in very goddamned state I’ve ever been to. There’s a reason why there are professional poker players and not professional lottery players. But those in favor of this ban aren’t just blowing smoke.

  • I’d argue that casinos use poker chips instead of cash at the table for the same reason, and having a simple number instead of chips is an extension of that. It was certainly true for me when I started playing.

[QUOTE=Mayo Speaks!]
[li]Fraud is as easy as sitting at a table, opening up AIM, and telling your friends what you have. It’s impossible to stop. I was particularly struck by this when I started playing at a table and realized I was playing with a guy who lived across the hall from me. We could have opened up the door and yelled “I have a flush” or whatever.[/li][/QUOTE]
Why is gambling against other players who might be cheating for an advantage a problem if gambling against a casino that has a guaranteed advantage isn’t?

It is not about ethics and morality. Its about money and who gets control of it. On line gambling has beeb threatened for many years and tv stories regularly pop up explaining how it is being abused. Especially when we can save our children from the evils of the world without really being involved. Our politicians can do it for us with laws. They dont care about your kids ,they are catering to a powerful money interest.

I’m afraid I don’t quite understand your question. When gambling, it’s a given that the casino only offers games that are to its advantage. This is well known and completely above board. I don’t understand how the fact that casino games work in favor of the casino has any effect on whether or not rampant cheating is a problem. However, I’ll try to explain why cheating is an insurmountable problem online in more detail.

I was referring specifically to poker, where you play against the other players, not something like a slot machine where you play against the house. In poker, the house makes money by taking some amount of money out of the pot (the “rake”). Online and brick and mortar casinos both do this. But the amount of the rake is explicitly spelled out somewhere, and is a part of the cost of admission, so to speak. Cheating by players is another matter. (I was not referring to to cheating by, etc.) Cheating (I’m specifically referring to two or more players sharing information about the hands they’ve been dealt with each other secretly) probably does go on in casinos, but it’s pretty damned hard to do. Casinos have cameras everywhere, the dealers are trained to spot irregularities, and the other players at the table can actually see the potential cheaters. Online, none of these is the case. My point was that cheating is pretty damned hard to get away with (at least casually) at a casino, whereas online it’s laughably easy. And I can see no way to fix that.

Additionally, people are cheating online. There is no question of this. The only question is how widespread it is. And I believe that it’s very widespread at the mid to high limits, which is why I stay in low limits.


How is it easy to cheat with on-line poker? Doesn’t the site deal you cards? How do you lie about what you have?

The cheating isn’t in palming that extra ace. It’s when you collude with 2 or 3 other people at the table, and you all know what is in your partner’s hand. I imagine it’s a big advantage.

Bingo. I can play in a game at (or wherever) and sit at a table with three of my buddies. We then open up one of those private chatrooms outside of PokerStars and tell each other what we each have. This gives us more information than the players playing legitimately.

Example: In Texas Holdem, let’s say I have an Ace and a King (AK) which is a very good starting hand. And I think that my honest opponent who has made a raise has a small pair. It turns out that with this information, this is a coinflip, meaning I have about a 50% chance of winning the pot at showdown. However, if I’m chatting with my friends and I find out that two of them folded Aces, I know that my AK is a big underdog to a small pocket pair (since I have 4 “outs” - cards left in the deck that could give me a better pair [1 ace and 3 kings] instead of the 6 outs [3 aces and 3 kigs] that I would think I have playing fairly) and I can fold and save myself some money.

If you have been following the Abramoff-Reed-DeLay scandals, you know how many millions of dollars are thrown at members of Congress by casinos for protection against their competitors. Against that backdrop, it’s not surprising to see members playing the morals card in legislating against internet gambling.

Money buys power. They don’t care about the moral issues, it’s all about the money.