When the Department of Justice issued arrest warrants to offshore gambling operators in 1999 for violating the wire act, it failed to raise many eyebrows outside of those in the online gambling community. While many gamblers were outraged that the DOJ was attempting to project U.S. laws onto operators in foreign jurisdictions, it failed to get much notice by Americans outside of the industry. When the DOJ arrested David Carruthers when touching down on U.S. soil it again upset many in the industry, but for the most part failed to register with the general public. But if the FBI acts on its threats to arrest group organizers on Facebook and other social networking sites for participating in NCAA pools, make no mistake about it, the general public will take notice.
Last week it was revealed in the Chicago Tribune that the FBI is investigating Facebook for illegal gambling since upwards of 20,000 Facebook groups are involved in bracket picking for the NCAA March Madness tournament. The sites are using an application created at CBS Sports.com that allows Facebook users to make picks for the tournament and view their picks in comparison to others on the social networking site. Many of the Facebook groups are not playing for money, but clearly many are, and according to the FBI playing online for money is illegal. "There could be a violation if there's a payout and if the operators take a cut," an FBI spokesperson told the Chicago Tribune. Considering most Facebook groups have hundreds of users, the FBI for all intents and purposes could look at arresting hundreds of thousands if not millions of Facebook users for breaking the law. CBS claims that the bracket picking application was not designed for gambling purposes and they will look into the matter, while Facebook itself stated that it does not condone the use of its site for illegal purposes. Obviously Facebook users don't care what the site's owner thinks, or more likely don't feel what they are doing is illegal. Reports have stated that almost half of the U.S. population is involved in March Madness pools in one form or another, many of those taking place in offices or among friends such as those in Facebook groups. So if half the population is doing something how can it be perceived as wrong?
So here is the challenge to the FBI. Show your true colors and start arresting Facebook members for illegal gambling for running March Madness pools online. Right now most of the U.S. population is naïve enough to believe that the gambling laws are in place to protect society from the social evils associated with crime, gambling addiction and underage betting. They fail to realize or acknowledge the hypocrisy that occurs when U.S. states and the FBI condemn gambling as a social evil on one hand, yet promote gambling by way of lotteries and land based casinos on the other hand. Perhaps arresting innocent Facebook users for involving themselves in an activity that at least half the population views as an innocent form of fun will finally wake up the general population to see the hypocritical, vicious and unnecessary crusade the FBI and the current Republican regime has undertaken to wipe out online gambling. Perhaps arresting a university student that never harmed a fly for daring to use his mathematical skills to pick games will finally illustrate to the general public that the online gambling laws have nothing to do with "people losing their house at the click of a mouse," but rather are in place to appease the religious right in an effort to ensure that evangelical beliefs that condemn gambling are instilled in every American, regardless of their own beliefs or convictions. Perhaps arresting a group of basketball enthusiasts that have never engaged in any activity that harms others, but simply want to prove their handicapping skills to others in exchange for a few dollars will prove to the general public that the online gambling laws have nothing to do with money laundering and organized crime, but rather with the inability of the U.S. government to collect taxes from offshore betting. And perhaps arresting a group of 18 to 20 year olds who choose to lay down a bit of money on a betting pool so they can enjoy watching the games with a little bit of extra interest in them, rather than arresting the 18 to 20 year olds who spend their time terrorizing neighbourhoods across the United States with guns, drugs and extortion techniques, will finally prove to the general public that the FBI's war against online gambling has nothing to do to with protecting the public and has everything to do with promoting a personal government agenda that allows the government to control the way Americans spend their own disposable income.
Facebook is a social networking website, nothing more and nothing less. The site allows people with similar interests to discuss ideas and express opinions, and it just so happens that on 20,000 of those groups the interest this week is March Madness. Make no mistake about it, the amounts of money being discussed are minimal (usually $1 to $20 per person), although the amount should not be significant. The hypocrites that passed the UIGEA made it legal for companies to operate and charge fees for fantasy sports leagues, yet are prepared to arrest law abiding individuals for essentially running their own fantasy sports for a fee. If the government and FBI truly believe that it is worth their time and efforts to go after someone that puts 20 bucks into a common pool for a bit of a profit then by all means do so. The online gambling community has been stating for years that there is a hidden agenda in the gambling laws that have nothing to do with organized crime, problem or underage gambling. And if the FBI does arrest law abiding citizens for essentially doing nothing, the true agenda will come to into clear focus. And we at MajorWager will be there to highlight each and every arrest.
So with the NCAA Tournament starting this Thursday, I dare the FBI to start arresting Facebook members. It could turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to the online gambling industry.
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