Marketplace Scratch Pad

Online gambling ban might come down

Scott Jagow May 6, 2009

Today, Congressman Barney Frank introduced a bill that would roll back the Bush Administration’s ban on Internet gambling in the US. Right now, banks and credit card companies aren’t allowed to process bets for online gambling sites (with the exception of horse racing).

From Reuters:

Frank said the bill would give the U.S. Treasury Department the authority to establish regulations and license Internet gambling operators.

The Treasury would also have the authority to revoke or terminate the license of any operator that violates the law. Enforcement actions could also include fines, according to the bill.

H2 Gambling Capital, a company that compiles gambling stats, says despite the ban in place now, Internet gambling generated $6 billion in revenue last year in North America. That’s more than a quarter of the world total. People have found ways around the ban, and there’s no tax revenue coming in from it.

One study from PricewaterhouseCoopers said the US could earn more than $50 billion over a decade if it were to impose taxes on legalized online gambling.

Opponents of Frank’s bill include the Christian Coalition, the NFL and Las Vegas casinos. The Coalition is worried about breaking up families, the NFL about game-fixing. But it sounds highly unlikely that sports betting will be allowed online. The casinos? Well, they could get in on the online action, but here’s what the New York Times says about that:

So far, Las Vegas executives have maintained a cautious stance about legalization of online gambling. Steve Wynn, chief executive of Wynn Resorts, said in an e-mail message that he thought it would be “impossible to regulate.”

“Even though it would be a benefit to our company, we are strongly opposed,” he said.

Seems to me, licensing is a far better way to regulate than what’s happening now. Although, I wonder if the states will ultimately get the regulation power instead of the Treasury. After all, they have jurisdiction over offline gambling and horse racing.

The only form of gambling I do is on horse racing, and I do it online sometimes. I can tell you these licensed, regulated sites are sticklers. They require a lot of information about you before you can make a wager and proof of it. I can’t imagine how a minor could open an account. I see no reason why adults shouldn’t be able to do other forms of regulated gambling online, if they so choose.

I mean, day trading is legal, isn’t it?

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