House Bill Would Legalize Online Gambling

By Jason Beahm on May 21, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation and makes crimes out of things that are not crimes. -- Abraham Lincoln.  

President Lincoln was never a big fan of prohibition as he said in this famous quote. Perhaps Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash) should look to Lincoln for guidance as he tries to push Congress to legalize online gambling. His bill supports the legalization, regulation and taxation of online gambling in the United States.

Or perhaps he can simply point to the economics against the prohibition. As McDermott stated during a hearing Wednesday, despite the illegality of gambling on the Internet, millions of Americans do it each day, wagering nearly $100 billion annually, which generates $5 billion in estimated profits for online casinos. According to McDermott, his bill would generate $42 billion in new tax revenue over 10 years.

McDermott's proposed legislation, along with another bill sponsored by Barney Frank (D-Mass), would set the outlines for new operators of online gambling. Proprietors would be licensed by the Treasury Department, required to meet financial requirements and pass criminal background checks. McDermott says the new, licensed gambling sites would create thousands of jobs.

Sounds like something that the government would want a piece of, but the tide in the government has actually drifted the opposite way, despite a massive federal debt. After the House voted four years ago to ban financial institutions from handling gambling transactions, Barney Frank has tried to pass his online gambling legislation, but has failed to get it through. McDermott's bill is considered a long shot, with little chance of passing.

That's because prohibition of online gambling still has its proponents, and they are numerous. University of Illinois professor and national gambling critic John W. Kindt predicts disaster if online gambling is legalized. He testified in support of the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and opposes legalization of online gambling.

"Online gambling is called the crack cocaine of creating new addicted gamblers," he said. "It places gambling at every school desk, every work desk and in every living room. Does Barney Frank really want to entice people to click their mouse and lose their house?"

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