I’ve really been out of the loop lately on national news, but the recent effective ban on online poker is the latest in a long list of despicable, bipartisan actions on the part of the 109th Congress and President Bush. Anyway, I’ll allow a far better writer than myself explain what a horrendous piece of legislation this is. From old school (read: actual) conservative George F. Will:
It is an iron law: When government uses laws, tariffs and regulations to restrict the choices of Americans, ostensibly for their own good, someone is going to make money from the paternalism. One of the big winners from the government’s action against online gambling will be the state governments that are America’s most relentless promoters of gambling. Forty-eight states (all but Hawaii and Utah) have some form of legalized gambling. Forty-two states have lottery monopolies. Thirty-four states rake in part of the take from casino gambling, slot machines or video poker.
The new law actually legalizes online betting on horse racing, Internet state lotteries and some fantasy sports. The horse-racing industry is a powerful interest. The solidarity of the political class prevents the federal officials from interfering with state officials’ lucrative gambling. And woe unto the politicians who get between a sports fan and his fun.
Prohibition I was a porous wall between Americans and their martinis, giving rise to bad gin supplied by bad people. Prohibition II will provoke imaginative evasions as the market supplies what gamblers will demand—payment methods beyond the reach of Congress.
But governments and sundry busybodies seem affronted by the Internet, as they are by any unregulated sphere of life. The speech police are itching to bring bloggers under campaign-finance laws that control the quantity, content and timing of political discourse. And now, by banning a particular behavior—the entertainment some people choose, using their own money—government has advanced its mother-hen agenda of putting a saddle and bridle on the Internet.
And now the superb Radley Balko on potential political fallout:
At risk of falling victim to the pundit’s fallacy, I think this is going to come back to bite Frist and the GOP. Think about it. Over the last week, some 10-15 million Americans who play online poker logged on to their favorite poker sites, only to get a message telling them that, thanks to the U.S. Congress, they’re no longer allowed to play. The GOP just politicized a rather large group of people who heretofore were rather apolitical. And they skew rather wealthy.
Of course, we run into the same old problem: Are the Democrats any better? They ought to be. If they were smart, they’d carry this issue into the home stretch, holding it out as an example of a Republican Party that doesn’t give a damn about indidual rights, and has nothing but contempt for the “leaves us alone” crowd. And they’d position themselves as an alternative, at least when it comes to matters of “what you do in your own home is your own business.” It’s a winner. The people who passionately believe in an online gambling ban weren’t going to vote for them any way. And in any case, it’s a rather small group of people to begin with. Most conservatives are opposed to this bill.
Here are a list of House votes on the bill. The Oregon representatives who voted aye were Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Darlene Hooley, Greg Walden, and David Wu. Vote accordingly.