Thursday, May 10, 2007

Legalize Online Poker

Jamie Gold earned $12 million dollars when he won the 2006 World Series of Poker. You can watch his road to victory of ESPN over and over and over again. The event was held at the Rio in Las Vegas, so you can be sure that Uncle Sam ended up winning big as well.

Despite a recent, well-publicized crack-down on on-line poker, which is illegal in the US, the popularity of poker and on-line poker continues to grow. So if on-line poker is illegal in the US, how are so many Americans getting hooked on Texas Hold-Em? On-line gambling sites operate out of tax-haven friendly Carribean countries and interestingly enough the UK. According to Wikipedia, the revenues from online poker were estimated at $200 million a month! The amount of money that the US government gets from these winning? Let's just say that most folks winning on-line are probably not going out of their way to report these earnings on their 1040 tax form. You can imagine why the government is trying and to some extent succeeding in forcing these sites to refuse business from U.S. citizens. All these riches are being sent to these foreign-incorporated gambling site companies, and the government's piece of the action is close to nill. The reality is that those who want to gamble, and those servicing these gamblers will find a way to get together. When there is a demand that lends itself to be serviced on-line, someone will find a way to supply. The biggest money maker on the Internet is still sex and porn. According to John Battelle's book "The Search", up to 30% of the content on the Internet is adult material.

So what is the solution? As our good friend Peter Tosh suggests, "Legalize It". Casino operators in Las Vegas and Atlantic City have lobbied to keep the U.S. ban on on-line gambling, as they fear it will hurt their tourism and gambling revenues. This is backwards thinking. Bricks and mortar casinos are also benefiting from the popularity of on-line poker, and would stand to gain even more if the US legalized on-line gambling. Once someone learns how to play hold-em on-line, the next step is to take their game to a live casino. The government also wins too. The US could put tax revenues collected from on-line gambling towards better educating the public on the dangers of addictive gambling. As well, taxes from on-line gambling could be put towards education and environmental initatives.

What are your thoughts on the pros/cons of legalizing on-line gambling?

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