Editorial: Gambling Credits

12 June 2003

This article is reprinted with permission from Las Vegas Review Journal.

In a move that--we hope--is merely symbolic, the House of Representatives on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to ban the use of credit cards, checks and electronic funds transfers to pay for wagers placed at Internet gaming sites. The ban, intended to stifle bets placed at overseas Web sites, passed by a 319-104 margin.

"Illegal Internet gambling is no better than an offshore mail order drug business," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said Tuesday.

Really? It's not exactly clear what jurisdiction the federal government can claim to outlaw betting on gambling operations located outside the territorial boundaries of the United States. But Tuesday's vote offers another example of federal lawmakers attempting to suppress the peaceful activities of consenting adults.

Or some of those activities, anyway. In a clear concession to state governments that operate lotteries, not to mention horse- and dog-racing tracks that accept bets from remote locations, the bill included a loophole exempting from the ban "any lawful transaction with a business licensed or authorized by a state."

Ironically, this exemption may one day enable U.S.-based Internet casinos to gain a foothold. In the meantime, it will keep potential foreign competitors from U.S.-based gaming operations at bay ... or at least drive them underground.

There's no telling whether the Senate will consider the legislation this year. It's a bad idea that encourages invasions of privacy by law enforcement officials on behalf of bluenoses who ought to mind their own business.

Here's hoping this abomination never again sees the light of day.