Know when to run

I’ll be honest. I really don’t care about the sicko Congressman NAMBLA wannabe story that’s been getting all the attention the past few days. The Congress issue that really pissed me off this weekend was the passage of the Safe Port Act. Not that I have anything against our ports being safe, but because they tacked on a completely incongruous piece of legislation to it called the “Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.” This legislation requires financial institutions to block the transfer of funds to gambling accounts for the purposes of playing games like poker online.

What a crock of shit! Frankly, I don’t know of a nicer way to put that. THIS is the type of legislation that our Congress has sunk to enacting? Is that the best they can do? We’re a country stuck in the middle of a civil war in Iraq, still hunting for Osama Bin Laden for over five years now, nearing nine trillion dollars in debt, reeling from three fatal school shootings in six days… and they’re focusing on taking away the hobby of 20 million citizens. Why? Simple. What drives most legislation these days? Money! Our government is too inept to even bother to understand how this “series of tubes” works, much less possess the mental capacity to be able to tax profitable entities like internet gambling. Thus, they take the only approach they do understand – If they can’t make money off it, make it illegal!

Can I really be that cynical? Of course! Anyone that thinks this is a victory over the “evils” of gambling addiction is short stacked in the IQ department. Don’t believe me? Why else would they exempt horseracing, intrastate lotteries, intrastate gaming, Indian Reservations, and fantasy sports leagues? They all operate within the U.S. and some governmental entity is making money off them! But since online poker sites don’t operate in the U.S., the big boys aren’t seeing the payoff. Therefore they must be made illegal!

If politicians really had a moral issue with online poker, they’d be first in line to shut down lotteries. A study commissioned by the Poker Players Alliance came to the conclusion that online poker players tend to be from much higher income classes, while lotteries attract more lower income individuals.

An important characteristic of online poker players is their ability to afford the pastime. In general, individuals playing lotteries or other games of chance are typically lower income individuals. However, poker players are more affluent. A recent survey of 552 Internet gamblers, conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates Inc., showed 41 percent had incomes of more than $75,000 a year, while only 12 percent had incomes of less than $35,000.

What if the government did decide that instead of interfering with the desires of their citizens, they decided to play the money grab instead? The same report states “Conservative estimates of Federal revenues based upon the existing Internet poker market, if regulated and taxed, would generate potentially over $3.3 billion annually in new taxes.” Doesn’t that seem like the more logical approach to take? Hell, we allow the sale of cigarettes which are proven will KILL YOU because the government can make boatloads of cash from their sale. What’s the harm in taxing online gaming? While nobody likes new taxes, it would be one of those taxes that only affects those who actually use the service. I’m sure most players would be willing to toss the government a few bucks for the ability to enjoy the activity.

I do take the issue personally because I do, occasionally, play online poker. I’m not a die-hard, though, like some people I know who play practically every night. I’ll go months without playing a single hand. I’m also not a big gambler. When I play, I always play small dollar amounts. I’ve never payed more than $10 to play in a tournament, and I don’t think I’ve ever lost more than $40 on a bad night. I’ve spent a lot more than that to see the Bills and the Sabres lose, but no politician would treat that as a foolhardy purchase. I’m not a fan of casinos. I don’t like true “games of chance” where I have no effect on the outcome, like slot machines and the lottery. Poker is different. It’s a game that involves skill, concentration, and a touch of luck to keep things interesting.

It’s things like this that disgust me about politicians and government. While some sicko sending inapproprite IMs to staffers gets all the attention, they backdoor this piece of crap legislation. We don’t elect legislators to take away our rights to enjoy pasttimes that they may not necessarily agree with. The public was not beating down anyone’s door to shut down internet poker. I’m sure we’d all appreciate it if the government fixed their own problems first, and then the problems we elected them to fix.

I think Kenny Rogers just upped the pace from walk to run.

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