People who never bet on sports make an exception this time of year. Something about the NCAA basketball tournament–maybe it’s the appeal of filling out those brackets and tracking their progress each day–brings out the gambler in all of us. But if some members of Congress get their way, we won’t be able to place any of those bets online.
The proposed Internet Gambling Protection Act would prohibit using the Internet to operate a gaming business. But trying to shut down a multibillion-dollar industry with consumer demand that includes an estimated 8 million Americans annually is an empty legislative effort. Instead of outlawing it, Congress should regulate it.
Online gambling is now a $12 billion-a-year industry. Americans anted up more than $500 million to bet on this year’s Super Bowl online, an increase of more than 12 percent from last year and more than five times the amount wagered through Nevada casinos. Overall, Americans wagered nearly $6 billion online in 2005, compared with about $1.5 billion in 2001.
The U.S. government says the consumers who placed these Rubah4d bets are in violation of the Wire Act, which was originally aimed at organized crime and sought to prevent gambling businesses from operating by phone in states where it was otherwise illegal to gamble.
This law shouldn’t be applied to Internet betting. No case law or statute clearly defines where Internet bets are taking place. BetOnSports, for example, is based in Costa Rica. Our customers can place bets from anywhere that has an Internet connection. In part because of this ambiguity, no one has been prosecuted for online betting under the law.
Enforcing this outdated law, or passing new legislation, would be foolish at best and a violation of privacy and individual freedom at worst. …