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The Economoral Debate of Online Gambling Regulation

30 August 2011 by Devon Chappell

These days, there is no shortage of debate on whether the United States government, even State government’s for that matter, should or should not legalize and regulate online gambling. Two years ago, you would have been hard-pressed to find a single piece from the likes of Wall Street Journal, NY Times, Forbes or Huffington Post talking about the issues surrounding the legalization of internet betting sites.

While debate on the subject of legalizing online gambling is certainly welcome, let’s just say that the way things are going, this debate is beginning to take on the “hamster wheel effect”.

For years, the debate over gambling has been one of morality and economics, with more power going to the former. If the legalization of gambling looked right for economics, it still needed to get past the moral roadblock of being a risky and dangerous pastime. In other words, no matter how good the economic prospects of regulating internet betting look, the moral resistance will unwaveringly stand.

The Huffington Post recently published an op-ed exploring these two issues, and while the tone of the author, Dana Radcliffe, gave the anti-online gambling camp the upper hand, the article itself, titled “Should States Raise Revenues by Expanding Legal Gambling“, gives an eloquent and impartial description of the two voices emanating form opposite sides of the camp.

While Mr. Radcliffe believes that lawmakers will have a difficult time arguing that legalizing online gambling is morally justified, he also recognizes that the economic benefits of expanding gambling will be a positive boost for the economy. He also recognizes the moral double-standard that exists. For example, comments made from Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation Executive Director, Les Bernal, are not only sensational, they ignore the double standard given to State-run lotteries. Bernal is on record stating that legalizing online gambling is, “the equivalent of opening a lottery retailer inside every home, office and dorm room in America”, and yet the lottery is legal.

Perhaps then, this isn’t about morals after all? Clearly, a lottery ticket has no better odds than a hand of online blackjack. While there certainly are justified moral objections to the act of non-tempered gambling, perhaps the act of regulating new forms of gambling stirs up the most opposition from those whose financial interests could be jeopardized, such as land-based gambling operators and State-run lotteries?

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