The federal government shut down a series of large online poker websites last week, accusing them of violating a 2006 law banning Internet poker. The law technically bans an activity millions of Americans — including many college students — do routinely, and will continue to do through whatever channels they can, whether it’s legal or not. It would make more sense for the federal government to recognize that fact and legalize online poker and regulate it the way it does other types of gambling.
With its 2006 law, Congress was trying to curb the growth of online gambling by making bank transactions for its purpose illegal. But the no-gambling rule simply forced online poker companies’ headquarters overseas. For banking purposes, online poker transactions began masquerading as other purchases (such as flowers, pet supplies and golf equipment, according to The New York Times).
Today, millions of players spend billions of dollars playing online poker each year. The 2006 law failed to stop online gaming, just as marijuana restrictions fail to stop consumers from smoking.
As such, we propose a policy of legal and regulated online poker. Under such a plan, poker companies could call America home, subject themselves to the country’s laws and operate popular, regulated gambling sites, just like casinos.
The plan would make gambling safer for consumers and transparent for government inspectors. Perhaps more importantly, it would end the stubborn pattern of failed federal laws meant to end activities that will happen with or without legal recognition.
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