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The Logic of Online Gambling Laws

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A gambling website that takes bets on anything from poker to sports to celebrity news is taking bets on which of Technorati’s top 100 blogs will take the #1 spot at the end of the year. But is that legal? Well, sort of.

BetUS.com lists the top 10 blogs, which includes BoingBoing and Engadget at the top and Auto Blog and Gawker at the bottom, complete with odds of winning. But don’t let the capitalization of “US,” the baseball photos, or the stars and stripes backdrop fool you. BetUS.com isn’t based in the land of the free, where all are free to participate in a very select set activities. BetUS.com is licensed for business in Canada and Costa Rica.

So what happens if an American citizen drops a hundred bones on Matt Cutts to show? Well, it depends on which state you live in and what mood the U.S. Department of Justice is in. If you live in Washington, you’re surety that Cutts’ rise in popularity will bring you back $60,000 can earn you a seat next to rapists and child molesters, holding an indictment for a Class C felony. Of course, if this were Vermont, that’d only get you what, three months?

Despite appellate courts rulings to the contrary, the DOJ has insisted that Internet gambling is illegal based on the Wire Act, which makes it illegal to operate an interstate gambling outfit and the Federal Organized Crime Act, which holds US citizen participants liable if gambling is illegal in their home state. That means, in most cases, the bettor has more protection than the bookie.

Recently the DOJ has been more interested in indicting advertising executives on racketeering and fraud for running basic Web-campaigns for offshore clients. But the DOJ is no doubt chomping at the bit over legislation that reached overwhelming approval in the House of Representatives making it a crime to engage in any online gambling except for horse racing or state lotteries. That’s because horse racing is a dignified form of gambling and the State doesn’t like the mob horning in on its bad-at-math constituency.

Outlawing online gambling would put the US in good company along with the People’s Republic of China, where online gambling is also illegal. This would also be despite the frowning of the World Trade Organization which decided legislation criminalizing online betting is a violation of global laws. But global, schmobal, that only really counts if you grant any sovereignty at all to an outside body. And that ain’t gonna happen.

So let’s recap:

According to many lawmakers, gambling is immoral, except in horse racing and state lotteries.

According to the DOJ, online gambling violates two different US laws, and handling a promotional campaign for an offshore company is deserving of up to 20 years in prison.

In Washington, online gambling is as bad as rape or child molestation.

It’s illegal in the Home of the Free, where liberty and justice prevail, for people to do with their money as they see fit, just like in China.

It’s okay to regulate online gambling, the online sex industry, the online payment industry, how things may be linked to, the domain names people use, and who has access to social networking sites and blogs, but when it comes to Net Neutrality, the government is strictly protective of individual rights and regulation is to be avoided at all costs.

The person in charge of regulating the Internet thinks it’s a series of tubes.
Yes, I can see how all that makes sense. Good luck in November.

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