Choosing individual liberty is no gamble.

On June 1st the Oregonian published an opinion piece by the editorial staff, titled “Legalization would be a gamble, too”

The basis for the editorial board’s logic as well as some of the facts cited in the article are questionable, if not downright incorrect.  The main argument the editors make is that legality of an activity should be based, not on the constitution, free will of man, or other such concepts, but rather “public” perception of the activity; if the general public finds distasteful an activity that a minority enjoys it is perfectly fine to prohibit the activity.

We still aren’t convinced that what this country needs is more legalized gambling…There are still too many unanswered questions and unknown social impacts with legalizing online betting.

Basing the law on such a tenuous foundation is only a good bet if you plan to always be in the majority, otherwise the editors at the Oregonian might one day find their favorite activities have been prohibited, say for example, off-the cuff opinion articles that haven’t been fact-checked?

According to the article:

Like alcohol during Prohibition, Internet gambling is rampant even though it is banned in the United States. Thousands of online gambling sites are available to anyone anywhere with Internet access. All of them are based in other countries outside the reach of U.S. laws and law enforcement.

Internet gambling has never been banned in the US. Though no law makes it legal, no federal law criminalizes the activity. The state of Oregon does have laws governing Internet gambling that say, “Anyone engaged in Internet gambling may not knowingly accept a credit payment from another engaged in “unlawful gambling using the Internet,” but that makes the law dependent on a definition for what constitutes unlawful gambling. Since Oregon has no other laws regulating online gambling the law is not yet in effect.

Another error committed by the article is the description of “unregulated Internet gambling”

…legalizing online gambling could provide billions of federal tax dollars every year and serve to clean up some of the dark, unregulated alleyways of Internet gambling, where identity theft, sleazy financial practices and underage players are common.

While it’s true that the US hasn’t regulated the activity, most Internet casinos are regulated by the country they’re based in and the rare instances of crime occurred in regulated casinos. Laws won’t stop criminals, but criminalizing players creates victims without recourse.

A new federal law aimed at quashing Internet gambling by requiring banks to block suspected online gaming transactions took effect Tuesday. The restrictions may have some short-term impact on the Internet gambling industry, but players will get credit cards from overseas and find other ways around the law.

But if it isn’t possible to stamp out or even slow Internet gambling, does that mean the federal government should license it, tax it and profit from it?

oregonian-editorial-board1The issues isn’t about money. It is about whether or not it’s government’s role to criminalize an activity adults willingly choose to participate in and the answer is a resounding: No.

Yes, millions of Americans already are gambling on the Internet. But does anyone know whether legalization of the most accessible, convenient gambling opportunity ever invented — available with a few clicks of a mouse wherever there’s Internet access — would greatly increase gambling activity and problems associated with gambling?

So, if this is clearly an activity that “millions of Americans” want to engage in, what gives the state government, the feds, or the editors at the Oregonian the right to prevent consenting adults from playing games online with their own money?

While we don’t know the exact repercussions of explicitly legalizing online gambling in the US, we do know that sacrificing our liberty is a much riskier bet.

Note: After writing a letter to the Oregonian expressing my displeasure with the message of the article and misrepresentation of online gambling, I received an email from the public access editor, explaining that “…except in unusual instances, we reserve our letters page for local correspondence, and your letter would not qualify”