Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Legalize Online Gambling Now

Sun Tzu said, know thy enemy. For those of us supporting online gambling, we have a number of otherwise incompatible enemies to deal with.

The conservative Christian organization “Focus on the Family” is opposed to any form of online gambling. As they see it, “We must keep families safe from online predators that seek to exploit people for a profit.” To FOTF online gambling is not an issue of personal freedom, relief from excessive governmental interference, or the rights of a free market. It is about sin and degeneracy – and they see it as their moral responsibility to save you from evil.

What is ironic, of course, is that in their quest to shut down online gambling, Focus on the Family is doing the bidding of other purveyors on gambling: the NFL, brick and mortar casinos, Indian gaming, and state lotteries.

On the side of online gambling there is the million plus member Poker Players Alliance (PPA), headed by former Republican Senator Alfonse D’Amato, the Interactive Media and Entertainment Gaming Association (iMEGA), and the Interactive Gaming Council (IGC), among other groups. Their motivation is, primarily, old-fashioned capitalism, the economic outgrowth of freedom and democracy.

Focus on the Family believes it has Jesus on its side and its drive to impose its religious beliefs on others is boundless. And Jesus wasn’t much of a capitalist, anyway.

This coalition of the religiously fervent – who, we know, is tireless, well-organized, and well-funded – with the industries that would be hurt by the expansion or legalization of online gambling makes for a formidable opposition.

Add to this mix liberals such as Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein who incredibly find themselves in the political bed of the rightest of the right in their opposition to online gambling. The Senators are not religious zealots, nor do they seem to be motivated by ties to traditional gambling businesses.

Instead, they take their position from a third category – the liberal “I know what’s best for you” position that makes certain left-wingers believe they have the moral duty to protect you from yourself. And if it interferes with your economic and personal freedom, oh well. They're only looking out for your well being.

Even with a poker player in the White House, we have opposition in the administration – Obama’s Attorney General, responding to questions during his confirmation hearing confirmed his opposition to online gambling. Agents from the Department of Justice recently intercepted payments from online poker sites to players, freezing assets and causing tens of millions of dollars in payments to be suspended.

Strange bedfellows, indeed.

How to combat a motley association such as this one?

We have to be larger, better funded, more organized, and louder.

And, possibly, we need a spokesperson a tad more eloquent, more approachable, and more telegenic than Barney Frank.

We need to frame this as an issue of economic and personal freedom, which it is. We as a country do not ban all forms of activities that might have some negative consequences. We establish rules and guidelines, laws and penalties. We’re not Iran, we don’t need the government telling us what we can and cannot do in the privacy of our own homes, with our own money. If we are the country of freedom, then let us have that freedom.

I don’t want Focus on the Family running my life, nor those who feel economically threatened by online gambling, and certainly not by the self-appointed nannies Boxer and Feinstein. I want the right to spend my free time and my money as I see fit. Is that really too much to ask?