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On Friday, April 15, the FBI shut down U.S. access to the three largest online poker sites, charging 11 executives of these sites with bank fraud, money laundering, & illegal gambling.  It was the culmination of a multi-year investigation by the Justice Department that probably cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.  But the FBI got the criminals!!  Good for them.

In (apparently) unrelated news, The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children report that more than 2,000 children go missing each day.  That’s more than 800,000 each year.

But thank goodness we’ve wiped out online poker!

Jonathan Duhamel, 2010 WSOP Champion

While these actions were shocking to many, especially in the poker community, they are not unforeseen. Congress enacted a law in 2006 making it illegal for U.S. banks to process money transfers from Americans to these gambling sites which are located off-shore.

I’m not an online poker player but I do enjoy the game.  I used watch every episode of ESPN’s coverage of the World Series of Poker but inevitably would hear who won the tournament before it aired.

However, It looks like (allegedly) these companies went to some pretty deceptive ways to get around the 2006 ban on financial transfers to and from poker sites, including setting up fake online merchants so poker players could “purchase” items like jewelry as a way of transferring the money to  the poker sites.  But it’s a victimless crime if you ask me.  I don’t hear anyone complaining that they didn’t get their necklace or earrings.

The only jewelry poker players care about it the bracelet that comes winning a WSOP event!

Sure, maybe laws were broken but I believe the government has missed the boat to regulate and tax the online gambling scene.  It’s estimated that even after the 2006 ruling, more than 15 million Americans were playing online poker to the tune of $6 billion a year.  Think about the revenue the government could make off taxing these online sites. Instead, the government made it illegal for them to operate in the U.S. which sent them offshore.

Again, I’m not saying the poker sites aren’t to blame here but the real victims are the American people:

  • For starters, we’ve had the Justice Department and the FBI spending valuable time and resources building a case against the poker companies and their executives when they should be investigating real crimes and hunting down real criminals.
  • Secondly, we’re being taxed more and more to cover governmental spending (which I won’t even get into right now) when millions and millions of dollars in tax revenue could be generated by government-run online poker.
  • Finally, 15 million Americans have been denied access to a hobby or pass-time that enjoyed legally in thousands of casinos across the country but is criminal in their own homes.

I just hope they don’t come after people who collect baseball cards next!