Monday, July 2, 2007


USA No Longer The Land Of The Free?

All eyes were on the US this week as a small piece of legislation was surreptitiosly tacked on to an altogether unrelated Bill infuriating US Civil Rights campaigners and niche groups in the process.

The "must pass" Port Security Bill, dealing with the potential threat of terrorist activity at US ports, became the vehicle for a piece of anti-gambling legislation championed by Senator Frist and in itself an abridged version of the HR4411 Bill, recently debated in, and approved by the House Of Representatives, albeit with some opposition.

The original HR4411 Bill was aimed at prohibiting gambling on the Internet by US citizens using a moral argument to back it up. It has met with strong opposition, not least because the Bill included exemptions for gambling on horse racing and state lotteries.

The Bill's detractors were quick to point out the obvious double-standard claiming the moral argument was designed to hide the real reasons for the legislation, notably that US money was being channeled away from the traditional US gambling vehicles - horse racing, lotteries and land-based casinos - into offshore companies.

As it became apparent that the Senate were not going to approve HR4411 prior to the mid-term break, Senator Frisk sought amended legislation which cut down the original proposal significantly, concentrating instead on preventing US financial institutions from funding gambling transactions. With time of the essence, the amendment was tacked onto the Port Security Bill on Friday (29th September 2006) which as expected was approved - albeit with some opposition to the anti-gambling amendment - and is now set to become law.

The move has angered many factions, both online and offline, who feel that this was an underhanded way to impose moral restrictions and thus appease the "Religious Right", an important voting demographic in the US. It effectively takes the first step to outlawing online poker, among the most popular of American pastimes and is seen by detractors to be a major afront to American's "Freedom Of Choice".

While proponents of anti-gambling legislation argue that it will stop a growing epidemic of gambling debt and have a positive bearing on society in general, the exemption of gambling on horse racing, state lotteries and in land based casinos does appear to question whether the Politicians really do have the interests of the public at heart.

It remains to be seen how effective this piece of legislation is on it's own. Banks and financial institutions have been quick to point out that the resources required to police such legislation are likely to render the law untenable and indeed that identifying such transactions itself might largely be impossible.

Nevertheless, the politicians have achieved their goal ahead of the mid-term elections and there is a suspicion that the gambling industry may well add to the confusion and uncertainty surrounding the "grey area" of US gambling in a rush to calm jittery shareholders.

Only time will tell.


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