Saturday, July 31, 2010

Internet poker might soon be legal again

Internet poker and some other forms of online gambling was supposedly banned back (2006). "But I see ads for internet gambling on TV and online all the time?" you might say? I guess it's all run from offshore currently, and note that the ads will direct you to a dot net site that's a "play" site with fake money, but it'll have ways to link to the real sites where all the poker stars talk about playing.

Anyhow, it sounds like congress is looking at legislation to legalize internet gambling. It's not that they don't want to control your life (or more cynically protect campaign contributors like land-based casinos, or other forms of already legalized gambling - can you say the "lotto") - they're just out of money this time and need more revenues. In a way govt. debt has been good for cultural libertarians out there.

(Heck, even in some small towns I'm familiar with where nobody previously drank alcohol you can now go to an "upscale" O'Charlies because they've been willing to do the unthinkable - legalize liquor by the drink licensing - a needed profit center to attract new restaurants (and a new tax base for struggling city budgets).

Now with all this said, I know alot of folks struggle with gambling and other addictions so along with this I have to support programs to help people who can't control a gambling addiction. In my mind the two have to walk hand in hand - there has to be a recognition of the negative social costs of gambling, and some of the revenue _should_ be used to offset the negative effects it brings to society.

Anyhow, my post for the day.... it's not meant to be inflamatory, but I do find it interesting that societies have tendencies to want to control people's activities until it gets to the point of a) do I stand by my principles and support increased taxes, or b) do I just legalize it and tax the crud out of it? Often option (b) is the way we go. Option (b) comes with baggage often, and it's that compromise that makes govt. kindof icky - option b is usually not a nice clean solution - it has both positives and very visible negatives. But option C (not spending so much in the first place) hasn't proven very achievable either.

The really tough calls to me are the ones where the net negatives are equal to and/or outweigh the net positives. The derivative markets might be an example ;-) or certain activities classified as "predatory lending," certain life destroying drugs, or if your neighbor wants to put in a chicken coup. Tough calls are on the fringes - and there are those that would argue they have the right to do those things even if it makes society as a whole worse-off anyway. But we're off on an interesting tangent now.

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