Friday, August 11, 2006

When Nannies Attack

As I’ve said before, I play a little penny-ante online poker. The government has decided that I shouldn’t do that. The government and certain busybody, do-gooding groups also wish I didn’t own guns.

Of course, the government can’t go after the tens of millions of Americans who make an occasional online bet. No, they went after an online gambling company head, David Carruthers, and arrested him on a layover flight in Texas.

His company and others like it are based in countries where online gambling is legal. Carruther’s company is traded on the London Stock Exchange. US prosecutors are arguing that their use of American internet access constitutes a crime based on a 1961 law.

The company, BetOnSports, has now fired Carruthers and will cease any transactions from Americans. In other words, they capitulated. Thus an obscure 1961 act aimed partly at shady bookies is used 45 years later to control a new technology and to squelch a new acceptance of gambling.

Let’s face it. Americans like to gamble. Television channels broadcast poker tournaments routinely. The Travel Channel’s most popular program is the “World Poker Tour.” Gambling moved from Las Vegas to Atlantic City, and now to Indian casinos that sprung up in many formerly isolated communities.

Governments of various stripes started to run lotteries and a few set up Off Track Betting parlors and partially replaced 1961-style bookies. Some of these interests are concerned about online betting cutting into their share and a few support laws against it.

That’s short sighted. Many online players will learn how to play in micro-stake games (bets of $.02 and losses of less than a price of a soda) before they go to casinos. Some will win, many will lose, and a few will lose money that should’ve gone to the mortgage.

Freedom, liberty, and personal choice can be messy. There will be people who’ll abuse gambling just like those who abuse firearm rights. You can’t apply laws to the many in order to protect the few from themselves.

If a compulsive gambler loses his shirt, it’s not the brick & mortar or online casino’s fault just because it’s there. The gambler made a choice to risk money he shouldn’t have and must face the consequences. If a criminal shoots someone, he must be arrested and locked away from the rest of us.

Almost all gun owners are law-abiding. Almost all gamblers play responsibly. Stop trying to baby us you nannyistic, do-gooding, busy bodies.

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