Two Nevada Congressional Representatives are going to propose that online gambling can be regulated by the U.S. government, and instead of outlawing online gambling, the U.S. should be embracing it. Shelley Berkley and Jon Porter are slyly not asking for outright endorsing internet gambling, not yet, but only that Congress initiate an 18-month study of online gaming to figure out how it could be regulated by the U.S. The study would be conducted by the National Research Council, a relatively independent agency.
The proposal avoids making anyone look bad for the passing of Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act last year. The Act essentially makes it illegal for companies to transfer money on the behalf of an American individual for the purposes of internet gambling. The study is at its core, a call to repeal the (UIGEA).
The proposal also cleverly avoids asking the obvious question: what is wrong with internet gambling anyway? What makes internet gambling all that much worse than vacationing in Vegas and spending three straight days at the craps table?
You could argue that internet gambling has even less controls in place to manage the behavior of gamblers who can’t manage themselves. There is no “eye in the sky” looking over your shoulder while you play, and the instantaneity of the internet makes money transfers, from bank accounts and credit lines alike, way too easily accessible. In the casino, at least, it requires a walk to the ATM, or it requires that you already established a credit line with the casino before you ran out of money. There is even the walk of shame when you take a cash advance over your ATM withdrawal limit at a 240% interest rate. In order to get the money, you have to walk up to the casino cage and leave a thumb print on the paperwork. It’s all very humiliating when coupled with the heated stares of the casino employees who know you have overspent your discretionary budget.
A argument for social betterment is nice, but no matter how often it comes up, looking out for the interests of society is rarely a motivator for anything the federal government does. More often, the motivation is money, which makes the study proposal all the more insightful by eventually given internet gaming opponents a financial justification for withdrawing their support for the UIGEA. If internet gambling can be regulated, then the U.S. government gets a piece of the financial pie, and the gains will far outshine any potential downside to problem gamblers who are feeding their addiction online.
Reported estimates have put the amount of American dollars invested in internet gaming at around $12 billion dollars annually. That figure right now primarily goes into the pocket of the internet casinos. But what gets regulated, gets taxed, and that is logic in a language that Congress understands.