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MA Proposes Two Year Jail Term for Online Gambling 248

Posted by Zonk
from the little-harsh-for-some-blackjack dept.
tessaiga writes "The Boston Globe reports that Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is trying to sneak a provision to criminalize online gambling. The bill, if passed, would make online gambling punishable by up to 2 years in prison and $25k in fines. Ironically, the provision is buried deep within a bill to allow the construction of three new casinos in Massachusetts to bring more gambling revenue into the state. 'If you were cynical about it, you'd think that they're trying to set up a monopoly for the casinos,' said David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Democratic House representative Barney Frank, who earlier this year introduced federal legislation to legalize regulated online gambling, also criticized the move as 'giving opponents an argument against him.' Indeed, groups such as the Poker Player's Alliance, who were previously supportive of Patrick's plans to open the new casinos, have already announced opposition to the bill because of the online gambling clause."
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MA Proposes Two Year Jail Term for Online Gambling

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  • Good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cutie Pi (588366) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @11:47AM (#21336573)
    The more that lawmakers continue to be in bed with corporate interests, the faster a revolution will come. Why don't you give online gamblers the death penalty while you're at it?
  • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @11:48AM (#21336585) Homepage Journal

    If you were cynical about it, you'd think that they're trying to set up a monopoly for the casinos,
    Duh! That's exactly what they're doing. It's exactly what they did in Detroit, when I lived there. When they passed the laws to allow the casinos, they made sure that other forms of gambling had stricter laws and penalties attached to them.

    It's all about the tax revenue. It's always been all about the tax revenue.
  • Constituants (Score:4, Interesting)

    by repetty (260322) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @11:49AM (#21336599) Homepage

    I'm not from Massachusetts but has anyone investigated Governor Deval Patrick's ties to the casino industry? From a distance, this kinda reeks.

    Follow the money; money is the truth drug.

  • by King_TJ (85913) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @11:52AM (#21336653) Journal
    Pretending for a moment that I have no other problems with something like this being passed into law (and that's FAR from the case!), I'm wondering what other unintended ramifications this could have?

    For example, I'm a member of a local group on, a social networking type web site. This group occasionally holds poker playing get-togethers at one member's apartment on the weekends. (Nothing "high stakes", but some money does change hands.) Could this get caught up in "online gambling", simply because it was organized over the Internet?
  • by shrubya (570356) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @11:59AM (#21336773) Homepage Journal
    What kind of legislature accepts proposed legislation directly from the executive?
  • online not regulated (Score:3, Interesting)

    by v_1_r_u_5 (462399) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:00PM (#21336791)
    since online gambling isn't regulated, all "bets" are off. a consumer has no recourse if she is cheated, and you can't possibly trust online gambling sites where there's no regulation oversight since there's absolutely nothing stopping them from cheating. i'm all for online gambling, but it has to be regulated to protect the consumers. what this legislation should be pursuing is online regulation, not online banning.
  • by TheRavenofNight (981092) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:01PM (#21336817) Homepage
    I recall reading an article recently where the US is in danger of being fined billions by other nations due to the banning of online gambling. If MA does, in fact, pass this, there may be many world-wide ramifications for the state and additional ones for the country. Doesn't seem a very wise idea when we've already pissed most nations off. And please- 2 years for online gambling? I will never understand it. You can gamble at casinos, play the lotto, or play bingo for your local NPO, but have a poker game at home or play online and you're screwed. State and federal governments need to stop overreaching their bounds on these issues.
  • by hedwards (940851) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:08PM (#21336931)

    For example, I'm a member of a local group on, a social networking type web site. This group occasionally holds poker playing get-togethers at one member's apartment on the weekends. (Nothing "high stakes", but some money does change hands.) Could this get caught up in "online gambling", simply because it was organized over the Internet?
    I live in WA, and we banned online gambling a couple of years ago. Thats in addition to a blanket ban on any gambling outside of licensed casinos/cardhouses. In order to be licensed in the state you pretty much have to have tribal affiliations. And that includes just owning a slot machine, whether or not any money changes hands as a result of its use.

    I don't know Massachusetts, but around here the internet ban was largely the logical completion of our current ban on non tribal gambling. Chances are the kind of activity that you mentioned is already illegal.

    In case you're wondering, online gambling is a class C felony around here, which puts it in the same basic category as child abuse and torturing animals. I don't think that there is a good reason why it needs to be a felony. Misdemeanor perhaps, but making it a felony for the people playing is more than a little over kill.
  • Re:Online gambling (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CaymanIslandCarpedie (868408) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:12PM (#21336987) Journal
    These could actually be valid reasons, but as the OP asks why isn't this an issue also with online shoping and other online services? Same issues exist there as well.
  • by eebra82 (907996) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:12PM (#21336993) Homepage
    This is exactly how the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was introduced and signed. It was buried deep within the Safe Port Act, located at the very end of hundreds of pages of jibberish about how to make America safer.

    If they wish to make a stance on online gambling, they first have to decide what is gambling and what's not. Is chess gambling? Is poker gambling? Online snooker? Backgammon? Once they've established this, then we should have a discussion on whether it should be allowed or not.

    Personally, I think it's kind of hypocritical to allow land-based casinos, alcohol and cigarettes and not online gambling. Most of the opposition tells us that it's dangerous to allow people to play online because some people tend to play irresponsibly. I'd draw the same line with alcohol - it's fair only to the idiots who cannot control it but unfair to the other part, which is the larger chunk. And if so, why allow land-based casinos at all? Anyone who claims that these will help you from becoming an addict should know that fairly tales like that remain at a theoretical level.
  • by tjstork (137384) <> on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:17PM (#21337071) Homepage Journal
    Let's look at some history. Back in the day, before Woodrow Wilson came along, the US Senate was completely dominated by industrial interests. They basically bottled up any imports into the United States and from there made mountains of money building up domestic industries. Wilson cracked things open a bit, and broke that old club, but by that time there was so much money floating around that the USA was able to not only easily tip the scales in World War I, dominate industry in World War II, but also finance a public education system including the best universities in the world, establish a string of hospitals and research centers, and, along the way, create a middle class.

    Bottom line, there have been times in history where a good bit of local cronyism, if coupled with solid workers rights and a bit protectionism, made a good recipe for economic growth. The deal was simple - really, the big industry guys could get rich and get the government to guard their markets, and in turn they would pay real wages and benefits to its workers. Over time, from Wilson, to Roosevelt, Democrats refined this idea into the New Deal, and as a result, America arguably got rich as all bloody hell.

    Somewhere along the way, Dems got a bit too infatuated with socialism, and meanwhile, Republicans switched from being avante protectionist industrialists that made goods and jobs, to global traders and stock people that don't make anything, and that partially explains the mess we're in.

    One wonders if the old formula could still work... It has before, and rather well.
  • Strange thinking (Score:2, Interesting)

    by adsl (595429) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:25PM (#21337181)
    So the Govenor of Massachusetts is NOT against gambling. Rather he wants to encourage gamblers by making it very accesible, in the State of Massachusetts, by building many new casinos in State, from which the State can draw revenues. But he wants to take away the freedom for gamblers to choose to spend their monies out of State, by extraodinarilly harsh jail and fine punishments if one chooses to gamble elsewhere. Isn't this border line extortion? Has the State of the Commonwealth decided the "mob" methodolgy works for his Government? Also he has seemingly NO intention of helping gambling addicts, rather redirecting them to lose in his State. I am surprised that the AG of Massachusetts doesn't see something amiss in this.
  • by east coast (590680) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:31PM (#21337291)
    Just to play devil advocate here, unregulated gambling can and does cause violent crime. Organized crime largely got a foothold due to this prohibition.

    So what is better? State regulated gambling or an open kind of gambling where no one is accountable for anything? That's a hard question.
  • Re:Online gambling (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:53PM (#21337621)
    I work in the online gambling industry and have heard from a number of sources that a few of the major B&M Vegas casinos have got fully functional online gaming systems up and running, but offline, with the ability to flick the switch as and when online gambling becomes legal to operate from within the US.
  • Counter effect (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:55PM (#21337669)
    When this happens those who really want to gamble

    1. open an offshore account
    2. open an offshore mailbox
    3. get offshore papers (for CC auth a drivers' license is just fine)

    Effect: US citizens are running around with foreign bank accounts that cannot be taxed, nor controlled. They are sometimes unsafe and your money just vanishes from there.

    Then the casinos/Sportsbooks restrict US IPs, because they can be also be held liable helping US people to break the law.

    Then people who really want to gamble are in trouble

    1. but then some clever folks start up a service to randomly assign offshore ip addresses to the good old US folks. And if you think the sportsbooks and casinos are pissed about it: think again. They do not/can not know that you are gambling from the US, since you have an off-shore credit card, you are gaming from an offshore IP, and you will get your payment via an off-shore payment provider to a most likely off-shore bank account.

    2. some even go further: there is an operation in Asia, where people place bets for you, and you can track it on-line. Real time. So you hire someone
    to place a bet on your behalf. You are not gambling. :O

    What does the US win on that: nothing. Some players are spending/winning a fortune. I work for several gaming companies (strictly technical infrastructural/programming work, no promos, spamming, anything illegal) and I happen to see bet amounts. My eyes pop out sometimes on the numbers people bet on an event.

    When I moved to my off-shore place (where I live) more that seven years ago, I heard someone saying, that gambling was over, because a processor just pulled the plug on online casinos. Since then it is just stronger and better.

    Here is a tip for the US: allow people to gamble, and instead of going after legit operations (yes in some countries you pay taxes per bookie, in some per terminal, then in some after your income - so yes, you are paying taxes), go after the crooks who operate casinos that never pay, and books that pay until people trust them, then claim "payment problems" until money racks up, then register 50 new domains, and continue the operation under an other name. These places are a real problem for the people and the industry, not the places where you bet, lose or win, and then get paid.

  • by gravesb (967413) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @01:05PM (#21337839) Homepage
    I think this Wiki article is dubious at best, which might be one of the reasons for the lack of citations. If I had time to do the research, I would correct it with the proper case law, but a quick look at the Constitution shows that an actual treaty (not all international agreements are treaties) generally trumps domestic law. It comes in second to the Constitution itself. There are a couple of cases this term though that might provide some more definite case law on this, and with the current composition of the court, I wouldn't be surprised if treaties were marginalized.
  • Re:Online gambling (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Enigma2175 (179646) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @01:33PM (#21338299) Homepage Journal

    'm not so sure. I think the US land based casinos would JUMP at the chance to be able to put up online casinos. That would be a major cash cow for them.
    Of course it would. That's why they have been purchasing legislation to make it happen. Shutting down payments to the online poker rooms was the first step. The B&M casinos can't currently host online gaming because they can't risk losing their physical gaming license. They needed to get the early innovators shut down while they worked on getting legislation passed that would allow them to provide gaming services online. That was at the core of the WTO ruling -- it's not that we banned gambling, it's that we allow gambling locally but ban gambling with international companies. This is a form of protectionism for the local casinos and violates the WTO treaties.

Their idea of an offer you can't refuse is an offer... and you'd better not refuse.