November 15th, 2006


Go, Antigua, go!

Rolling the Dice
The United States' big legal gamble with Internet gaming.
By Henry Lanman
Posted Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2006, at 5:32 PM ET

In the wee hours of an early Saturday morning several weeks ago, about half an hour before Congress left for its pre-election recess, it passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. The act tries to bar credit-card payments to Internet gambling sites, and there has been much speculation about its wisdom and likely efficacy. What has been less noted, though, is that through this bill and a handful of similar missteps, the government has put itself in a position to be taught a sharp lesson about the nature of power in a globalized marketplace. Unless Congress and the Bush administration begin to pay a little more attention to how they handle Internet gambling, they could well end up creating an entirely avoidable headache for some very powerful constituents—holders of U.S. copyrights and patents—by punching a hole in the international web of agreements that protects them. Taken as a whole, these efforts offer a veritable master class in how not to regulate a 21st-century economy.

The new law doesn't make any additional types of gambling illegal. Rather, it merely attempts to make it harder to engage in online-gambling activities that Congress already believes are illegal—by requiring credit-card companies to identify and block transactions with online casinos. But in laying out with specificity what kind of Internet gambling Congress thinks is—and is not—already prohibited, the law likely will add to a free-trade debacle in which the United States already finds itself knee-deep.

Collapse )