Sports picksJune 15, 2007

Dear Mr. Congressman… Why the UIGEA needs to go

Dear Mr. Congressman,

As someone who voted for you I’d like to share my thoughts on something very important to me.

I would like to encourage you to support Mass. Rep Barney Frank’s efforts to legalize, regulate and tax online gambling. The recent passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) is a misguided piece of legislation that was underhandedly attached to the Port Security Bill in the 11th hour and passed without most members of Congress even reading it. This is not how I expect my government to operate. Why was this underhanded approach used? It’s a very important question that I challenge you to answer.

The bill’s sponsor, Bill Frist, found out how voters felt about his actions. Instead of bolstering his stated goal of running for President, he was sent home, losing his congressional seat. His motives for passing this bill were very apparent as he carved out these forms of gambling as legal: horse racing, lotteries, fantasy football, riverboat gambling, Indian reservation casinos, stock trading. I guess it really wasn’t about “protecting our children,” was it Mr. Frist?

While some people like to think otherwise, gambling is part of American’s DNA. It’s part of the foundation of this country. Our forefathers built this country on a big gamble when they left oppression in England. Many of America’s biggest heroes are entrepreneurs who bet on an idea and hit it big. Americans like to risk, entertain themselves, and invest – these are very basic human traits.

Anyone who owns stock is a gambler. He/she is risking something in hopes of turning it into more and/or getting some entertainment. Stock investing, as is the case with betting on a football game or playing a hand of poker, is simply a way of trying to apply skill to come out ahead. Why is one considered legal and upstanding while the others not? One is regulated and taxed. The others are not. Herein lies the problem, and the solution.

Yes, all of these forms of gambling have a chance for loss, corruption and addiction. All are bad news for the small percentage of people who are susceptible to addictions and safeguards should be put in place for those folks as well as children. But do we try to outlaw stock investing? No. We regulate it.

The biggest problem with the efforts to criminalize online gambling is that it is an affront to our freedom. It is anti-American. We don’t want the government telling us what we can and can’t do in our own homes. We won’t stand for it. But somehow this government has lost sight of this fact. Internet Gambling will happen. Prohibition #1 (alcohol) didn’t work. What makes anyone believe Prohibition #2 (gambling) will succeed? Gambling has exploded in the United States (legal in nearly every state) because the people want it! A recent Wall Street Journal Poll indicated that 85% of Americans oppose government prohibition of online gambling. Why is the government going against the will of 85% of its constituency?

U.S. Citizens will not let the government control their entertainment options and their use of their discretionary income. It’s just a matter of what you, as our elected officials, do about it. The UIGEA, despite misconceptions, does not make online gambling any less illegal than it already is. It is not illegal for U.S. citizens to place bets online. It simply makes it harder for honorable businesses to serve US Citizens by making it harder to transfer money between players and operators. As a result, the regulated public companies operating out of the United Kingdom have left the market. The United States loses out on billions of dollars of tax revenue and the small percentage of problem gamblers are not protected in any way.

If we instead legalized, regulated and taxed online gambling, we’d have fewer problems and a windfall of tax revenue to use for pressing domestic issues. Washington Rep. Jim McDermott estimates $6-$25 billion in U.S. tax revenue in the first five years of legalization/taxation. Think about what could be done with this money. Think what these billions of dollars could do for improving schools and pay for teachers, improving roads, fighting cancer, fixing social security, etc.

The answer here is not, as some members of Congress believe, to try to control people’s private lives. The answer is to recognize that online gambling is here to stay. For the vast majority of Americans, it is safe and fun – a form of entertainment and/or investment. Regulate it, tax it and give the people what they want. The U.K. has this figured out and we need to follow their lead. It is in fact, very negligent of this government to allow this kind of tax revenue to escape our borders. And, it’s insulting and presumptuous for this government to tell us what we can and can’t do in the privacy of our own homes.

Do the right thing and get out of my living room. Support the repeal of the UIGEA and the legalization, regulation and taxation of online gambling.

If you continue to choose to ignore the desires of your constituency, you may end up watching from the sidelines like former senator Bill Frist


Signed, your constituent.

Write your representative or call them now and tell them what you think!