This past Friday, President Bush signed into law H.R. 4411, the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act, which prevents U.S. financial institutions from transferring money to online gambling services. For the Senate vote, the bill was sneaked, in typical sausage-and-legislation fashion, into the SAFE Ports Act (H.R. 4954 As Amended), where it passed 98-0, with two abstaining (Sens. Chafee and Akaka).
What this means is that if you have an account at PokerStars or any of the other popular online gaming salons, your credit-card provider will no longer be allowed to make payments on your behalf. I think this is bad, bad legislation for an awful lot of reasons, and here are a few:
- It is intrusive, and is another unwelcome example of sanctimonious and overweening government interference with personal liberty.
- It immediately creates, from the 23 million Americans who wagered $6 billion last year at Internet casinos, either a simmering pool of resentment among law-abiding citizens, or a new criminal class.
- Like Prohibition, to which the measure is being aptly compared, it creates a marvellous opportunity for a black market, which is certain to spring to life.
- It places the burden of enforcement upon the financial institutions, which is sure to add to their operating expenses and potential liability, with the additional cost inevitably being passed along to consumers, and weighing on the economy in general.
- It is essentially unenforceable, as foreign institutions can (and undoubtedly will) act as proxies, to their profit and our loss.
If a free society is to work, the vast majority of citizens must reflexively obey the law not because they fear punishment, but because they accept that the rule of law makes society possible. That reflexive law-abidingness is reinforced when the laws are limited to core objectives that enjoy consensus support, even though people may disagree on means.
Thus society is weakened every time a law is passed that large numbers of reasonable, responsible citizens think is stupid. Such laws invite good citizens to choose knowingly to break the law, confident that they are doing nothing morally wrong.
I couldn’t agree more. Read the article here.