America's sudden ban on Internet gambling could create a situation online resembling alcohol prohibition of the 30s, warns British culture secretary Tessa Jowell.
The US Congress, “caught the gambling industry by surprise earlier this month when it added to an unrelated bill a provision that would make it illegal for banks and credit-card companies to settle payments for online gambling sites,” and it became law on October 14, says the Associated Press.
Subsequently, “Several London-based Internet gambling companies and a handful in Europe and Australia subsequently sold off or shut down their U.S. operations, losing around 80 percent of their combined business in the process,” says the story.
Meanwhile, lawmakers from 30 countries – excluding the US – will talk about how to regulate the industry, “including the protection of minors and keeping the industry free of crime,” says AP.
But, “The new law to curb gambling over the Internet has one good thing going for it,” says gambling911.com. “It won't work.”
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act declares war on “unlawful Internet gambling,” not Internet gambling in general, says the story, going on:
“Americans can still place online bets on horse racing, sports, state lotteries and other gaming activities approved by the states. The law has more carve-outs than Mount Rushmore.
“Its main sponsor in the House was Jim Leach, R-Iowa. Leach poetically argued that in the case of addictive Internet gambling, ‘there are no needle marks, there is no alcohol on the breath – you just click the mouse and lose your house'.”
At next week's gathering, officials had intended, “to discuss ways to stop criminals from defrauding online gamblers and to prevent sites being used for money laundering,” says AP, which has Jowell saying, “America should have learnt the lessons of Prohibition” – that legislation meant to stop alcohol from causing harm in practice forced otherwise law-abiding customers into the hands of the bootleggers.
“Broadly speaking we have three choices,” AP has her saying, “you can prohibit, like the U.S., do nothing or regulate, like we have,” Jowell said. “I firmly believe we have chosen the path that will do the most to protect children and vulnerable people and keep out crime.”