Editorial - Prohibition Wouldn't Slow Tom Smith

11 February 2004

While online bookmakers across the globe still haven't come down from their Super Bowl euphoria, talk about another I-gaming prohibition bill in the Senate has already begun.

For many in the industry, the same song and dance is getting old, but it's still enough to cause them to stand up and take notice.

And for every passing year that Internet gambling gains more acceptance among the punting population, logically, more and more opposition from bettors surfaces.

And the more stories we hear about Tom Smith, the less credible the prohibition argument comes.

Who is Tom Smith you ask?

He is the 17-year-old lad from England who was upset with his parents because they refused to buy him new clothes. In a fit of rage only a teenager could muster, Smith bought a plane ticket to Rome, checked into a four-star hotel, splurged on clothes at Italian boutiques, hired a limo to go sightseeing and even bought a Sony video camera to document all his exploits.

The only problem with his little jaunt was that it was bankrolled by his father's credit card, one that Smith obtained and left the house with while his dad was out jogging.

When it was all said and done, Smith racked up almost £12,000 in charges over four days.

So much for Internet gambling being the cause of financial ruin for families as kids obtain their parents credit cards and gamble away the family fortunes. It seems like it is already being done in the land-based commerce world.

The young Smith had attended fine private schools and had grown accustomed to getting fine things when he wanted them. He showed no remorse over his stint and even posed for the newspaper cameras with his new loot. MasterCard is believed to be considering legal action against the lad.

The Smith case aside, the upcoming legislative session in the U.S. Senate could be a watershed moment for the interactive gaming industry.

With prohibition bills already losing steam after failing to pass for the last seven years, when at times each year it looked very likely they would pass, the 2004 session could mark the first time the idea of regulating the industry is seriously considered in the United States.

Online betting on the Super Bowl was again off the charts, far exceeding the action at legal sports books in Nevada. Bettors are finding the convenience of betting online, and the safety of wagering with a reputable company instead of the bookie at the local pub a more desirable option.

And while members of Congress who wear the banner of family values and Christian morals on their sleeve aren't exactly known for being the most logical of folks, one would think the more time that passes without a prohibition bill, the more the reality exists of the offshore betting industry sticking around for a long time to come.

Regulation in the States is a long shot, no doubt, but for the first time since the industry started fighting this war, passage of a prohibition bill could be even more unlikely.

Nobody knows where Kevin Smith came from. He simply showed up one day and started writing articles for IGN. We liked him, so we decided to keep him. We think you'll like him too. Kevin can be reached at kevin@igamingnews.com.