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"Safe and Secure"? Fine - But Don't Denature Gambling, In The Process (Part II)...By Nelson Lardner

In our running discussion of some of the current Barney Frank domestic-internet-gambling bill posturing going on online these days, we were brought to a standstill by some nanny-state-style verbiage currently appearing on the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative website, on their "Addressing Compulsive Gambling" page.

There was a rundown of possible "safeguards", designed to "address" compulsive gambling, including tracking players with the idea of limiting gross action during specific timeframes, and identifying - and actually stopping - players whose gambling patterns seem out of the ordinary.

Now, to us . . . "protecting consumers" means solely that (a) games are conducted honestly, and (b) winners are paid ASAP following a payoff request. Anything above and beyond that does not fall anywhere near the classification of "protecting consumers", but is a call to action for a quantity of garden-variety government busybodies who should have little trouble finding far more useful activities to occupy their waking hours . . . like minding their own damn business. A quaint notion, I know . . . but we're old-school.

For openers . . . who's going to define and finalize the precise definition of "compulsive gambling"? If ever there were a relative term! For someone earning $19,000 per annum before taxes, betting $100 on the pass line, or on a blackjack hand, could be fairly described as engaging in extreme behavior. For someone banking a quarter-million a year, free and clear, risking a "C" note or two on the tables is not a big deal.

I'm exposed to a good deal of compulsive gambling, most mornings, while I'm innocuously dropping by the local 7-11 for the papers, for the papers . . . and seeing people whose ability to afford it is most-questionable, firing significant cash at scratch-off lottery tickets, and/or pounding away at the daily number (at a mere 50% rake, courtesy of your benevolent local state government). And the states ADVERTISE this stuff. It's in your face, all the time . . . and I suppose that's all right, because the states are making out like bandits on this business, despite the bloated bureaucracies "servicing" this niche?

You think any government study group is looking to curtail THIS variety of wholesale self-abuse by the deluded and/or desperate who tilt at such government-hosted gaming windmills while desperately attempting to find a very tiny needle within one of innumerable, very large haystacks?

Ummmmmmm . . . doubt it.

Gambling is for adults, in large part due to the peripheral risks/swings involved. You've reached the age of majority, and you've automatically achieved the right to make your own decisions regarding your own money, so long as you're not aggressively hurting anyone else in the process. That said, stringent patrolling of cyberborders in the name of keeping the under-twenty-ones off gaming sites is a worthy goal. Build the walls, roll out the barbed wire, hire the armed patrolmen . . .

But to implement any other arbitrary behavioral controls, once the doors are opened? Wholly unrealistic . . .

Again, we quote SSIGI's current "Addressing Compulsive Gambling" action points:

"Track players and enforce controls to limit the amount of money wagered over a given time period"?

Do you see this at any of the brick-and-mortar edifices in the material world? It would be a public-relations nightmare, and real-life face-to-face debating over this sociological nicety in the heat of battle/action would be worth any price of admission. Some bureaucrat is going to rule that an online player on a hot roll at the craps table is going to have to suddenly curtail his action because he's already put (say) $2,000+ into action within (again, say) an eight-hour period?

The logical end product of this mode of thinking is so invasive, with regards to an individual's personal right to choose . . . so un-American . . . one shudders.

There's no doubt that one of the reasons folks gamble is the feeling they get during the occasional timeframe when a game in which you're involved is running fast, hot, and 110% your way. So you want to run it up a little . . . and there's a chance that under the broad outlines of some sociological fantasy that you might actually be told, "No, little man, you can't do that, here" . . . and would be, if the SSIGI's suggestion to look into "track(ing) players and enforc(ing) controls to limit the amount of money wagered over a given time period" became firm policy.

Such caveats might not even concern the biggest of the domestic operators who have expressed an interest in setting up shop if stateside on-line casino gaming becomes a reality, as those operatives might figure that the sheer customer volume they might enjoy would more than make up for any absurd dollar-action caps . . . but the gravy in this business, as we all know, is provided by the big players who go on tilt and lose bundles quickly.

Why should you discourage that business? Most of the people involved can readily afford such pratfalls, and chalk it up as an entertainment expense (and I don't mean on their taxes either) . . .

But some would, if the idea of "Identify(ing) and stop(ping) players whose gambling patterns seem out of the ordinary" catches on.

Do you want some government-appointed body to look at each individual player's financial statements, and be entrusted to make case-by-case judgments regarding how much each specific individual might be permitted to risk?

Get outta here.

I told you the logical conclusions of these lines of thinking were absurd. And I'm not wrong. There's a better way to skin this cat, which would satisfy all reasonable parties. This isn't it.

Nelson Lardner

If you would like to make or read comments about this article, you may do so by visiting the Mess Hall forum at where a thread has been started. Please click HERE

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