What is it about politicians? They seem great when running for office and once they get there they either do dumb stuff or reach for powers not given to them. In Kentucky’s case, it’s both, unfortunately, and when Governor Beshear talks about the threat of online gambling, every sensible thing he ever said flies out the window.
This was the same guy that wanted but failed to get the General Assembly on board to allow casino gambling so the state wouldn’t lose millions upon millions of tax revenues as citizens drove across a bridge to Indiana. That made sense, more sense than predecessor Ernie Fletcher’s ridiculousness about how casinos turned the areas around them into third world countries as the light of the casinos prove just too powerful for the gambling moths. Fletcher’s arguments sounded similar to the National Retail Federation’s about the addictiveness of eBay. Thieves and whores and thievin’ whores abound while children starve to death.
But Beshear’s argument for seizing the domains of 141 online gambling sites is unconscionable on a whole other level. In this case, Beshear extends that authority with a specious—at best—argument about protecting the Commonwealth. “[Online gambling]’s hurting our legalized gaming activity. It hurts fair and mutual betting. It hurts our lottery. It hurts charitable gaming that our churches and softball teams do to support themselves.”
Don’t get me started on Christian gambling. For every Bingo hall, there’s a Baptist on the corner opposing a new racetrack. But softball teams? Does he mean raffles? Next he’ll be the grand defender of March Madness office pools.
While defending his position by asserting online gambling is an affront not only to state-sanctioned gambling, but also to church-and-softball-team-sponsored gambling, he glazes over the more important issue: jurisdiction. Remember how New York decided it had the authority to collect sales tax on out-of-state sales? The situation in Kentucky is similar in overreaching authority.
Probably no one would have made much of a stink if Beshear had announced a plan to block illegal websites. Constitutionally or not, online gambling is illegal in the Untied States thanks to Bush’s DOJ and their grand imaginings of granted power. But Beshear wants to take the domains from companies based overseas. It’s not just an intestate commerce issue. It’s an international commerce issue.
Beshear is right to believe lots of these sites are shady—easily technologically fixed in favor of the site—but that’s why we have fraud laws on the books. Opposition to Beshear gathered in Frankfort on Tuesday for a hearing. The Governor likewise characterized the organization as shady because they wouldn’t reveal exactly whom they were representing.
That’s because the Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association represents more than just a handful of international gaming sites. They represent pretty much anybody doing business on the Internet. On their website, they list the types of issues iMEGA takes on: freedom, privacy, security, choice, content rights, commerce & taxation, net neutrality, citizen journalism, ethics and best practices.
As for how Joe Brennan, Jr., chair of iMEGA responded to Beshear calling his organization shady, he didn’t mince any words in this YouTube video that’s been voted up on Digg and is now officially embarrassing our whole state across the Internet. “The only person I would suggest who has acted in a shady and unethical manner thus far is the governor and his council. . . . If I’m gonna be called shady and my trade association is gonna be called shady by the governor of Kentucky, that is like the pot trying to call the kettle black.”
Ordinarily, them’s fightin’ words. But I cain’t gather up the gumption to defend my governor on this one.