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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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  • Online gambling (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tet (2721) <[slashdot] [at] [astradyne.co.uk]> on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @11:46AM (#21336563) Homepage Journal
    Sigh. Why am I not surprised to see another corrupt politician?

    Although I disagree with the idea that gambling is somehow immoral, it wouldn't be so bad if that was the position that was being taken. But no, it seems that gambling itself is fine, it's just that Internet gambling somehow is not. Perhaps the supposed rationale[1] is that it's not regulated the same way that in-state gambling is. But then by that token, online shopping should be banned, too.

    I'd be intrigued to see the wording of the bill. After all, spread betting on the financial markets is gambling. Indeed, the entire futures market is gambling. Hell, even taking out an insurance policy is gambling. Which of those will be made an offence punishable by incarceration, and which won't? Who determines which activity falls on which side of the line, and why?

    Disclaimer: I make my living through online gambling.

    [1] Yes, I know the public rationale is in all likelihood utterly unrelated to the real reason, but I have to at least go along with the pretense.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Rob T Firefly (844560)

      Disclaimer: I make my living through online gambling.
      It could be worse, you could be selling insurance.
    • Re:Online gambling (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @11:55AM (#21336689) Homepage Journal
      You know...I'm still kinda perplexed that I've seen nothing on the national news channels, about the WTO judgement against the US for billions of dollars due to its two-faced policy towards online gambling.

      I don't get it. I cannot be a morality reason...since OTB for horse races and apparently some lotteries can be planed online...so, what is the big deal with banning online gambling?

      Lets get rid of the nanny state mentality, and let people do what they wish. True freedom means freedom to fsck up, and deal with the consequences too....

      • If (when) the US federal government accepts its WTO treaty obligations and removes the national ban on online gambling, but the US still gets slapped with WTO sanctions 'cos some states won't budge from their local bans. Good be very good news for us in the EU if we get to legally use US IP for free, which is what the sanctions may turn out to be.
        • by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:59PM (#21337735) Homepage Journal
          "If (when) the US federal government accepts its WTO treaty obligations and removes the national ban on online gambling, but the US still gets slapped with WTO sanctions 'cos some states won't budge from their local bans."

          It will indeed be interesting. I'm not sure how the US will handle this. Unlike many other countries, when the US fed. government signs a treaty, it really does NOT become the law of the land, superseding other laws. This is especially true if parts of the treaty could be translated as violating the Constitution. Nothing, no treaty can supersede that. Here is an interesting link [wikipedia.org] that I saw before on Slashdot about all this. Read the part in Domestic vs International law.

          "The United States takes a different view concerning the relationship between international and domestic law from many other nations, particularly European ones. Unlike nations that view international agreements as always superseding domestic law, the American view is that international agreements become part of the body of U.S. federal law. As a result, Congress can modify or repeal treaties by subsequent legislative action, even if this amounts to a violation of the treaty under international law. The most recent changes will be enforced by U.S. courts entirely independent of whether the international community still considers the old treaty obligations binding upon the U.S. Additionally, an international agreement that is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution is void under domestic U.S. law, the same as any other federal law in conflict with the Constitution, and the Supreme Court could rule a treaty provision to be unconstitutional and void under domestic law although it has never done so. The constitutional constraints are stronger in the case of CEA and executive agreements, which cannot override the laws of state governments."

          So...it is going to be an interesting test of this indeed...with respect to how the US works within true international bodies and treaties such at the WTO. Our government isn't really set up to sign a treaty and have it set in stone and binding...at least, that's how I read it.

          • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by immcintosh (1089551)
            Well, I think what this argument really comes down to is that yes, the US is free to ignore its international obligations to whatever extent it likes for whatever reason it likes, just like the international community is free to enforce those obligations to the extent that is possible regardless. I don't think the WTO really cares whether the US thinks itself obligated to follow up on their treaty obligations--they're going to attempt to enforce it anyway, and rightfully so.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by azrider (918631)

            Our government isn't really set up to sign a treaty and have it set in stone and binding...at least, that's how I read it.
            Ask any Native American - Our government only pays attention to treaties which benefit those in power.
      • by _14k4 (5085)
        what is the big deal with banning online gambling?

        Because, I think, that there is no governing body (pun intended, I guess) in regards to how the random number generators, decks, and whatnot are setup. Meaning, can you really trust where you are playing? Any more than a brick & mortar place you gamble?
      • by N3WBI3 (595976)
        "I don't get it. I cannot be a morality reason...since OTB for horse races and apparently some lotteries can be planed online...so, what is the big deal with banning online gambling?" Not that I agree with it but here is the logic: Its allot easier for kids to fall into serious debt by OLG than by OTB or going to a casino. Gambling can be as addictive as alcohol, tobacco, of caffeine and OLG gives allot of young and stupid kids a chance to really get into large sums of debt.
    • by soft_guy (534437) *
      It isn't that internet gambling is immoral, it is that the casinos in the state are bribing him to criminalize internet gambling. - Captain Obvious.
      • Re:Online gambling (Score:5, Informative)

        by keithjr (1091829) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:17PM (#21337075)
        There are no casinos in the state. Yet. That's the proposition in this rather controversial bill: to allow casinos to be built in MA, and to lay out the plans for the first three.
      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        "It isn't that internet gambling is immoral, it is that the casinos in the state are bribing him to criminalize internet gambling. - Captain Obvious."

        I'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. I'd think a large majority of US gamblers would much rather do online gambling with a US based (and regulated) casino, than a little server out on some island somewhere that could perceivably scam them much

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Enigma2175 (179646)

          '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, i

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Billosaur (927319) *

      I really don't think this is a case of corruption, so much as one of protectionism. Listen, gambling web sites are only a threat because most of them operate offshore and therefore the suckers who use them are funneling their money to small Caribbean islands, not into the coffers of the States or the Federal Government. So, here's a bill that seeks to build casinos in Massachusetts while at the same time preventing gambling dollars from slipping the country. You have a State government trying to fund its pr

      • . Listen, gambling web sites are only a threat because most of them operate offshore and therefore the suckers who use them are funneling their money to small Caribbean islands

        Don't you think Americans would choose Hara's or Trump over some off shore gaming operation? If the US weren't so protectionist these B&M Casinos would jump into online gaming with both feet.

        The only problem I've heard of in an offshore gaming company was a recent one with Absolute Poker where an insider was colluding with a player, telling them the hole cards. Absolute denied it for quite a while until an employee rolled over on the insider who was colluding. Here's a link: http://www.gambling911.c [gambling911.com]

      • I really don't think this is a case of corruption, so much as one of protectionism.

        If it weren't for the jail term and fine, I'd agree. Simple protectionism would be banning overseas gambling (which they try in vain to do). In my opinion, using the criminal justice system to effectively guarantee a monopoly for a private business is square in the 'corruption' category.

        It's not overt corruption, unless of course some of the new MA casino money makes its way into the pockets of the governor.

        I haven't d

    • Re:Online gambling (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Gorm the DBA (581373) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @11:58AM (#21336745) Journal
      The real reason is simplicity itself...

      Brick and Mortar Casino - Taxed...heavily...easy for the auditors to swoop down on and maintain control to make sure the state gets it's cut. Physical location clear, so no question as to what taxing authority "owns" it. Opportunities for additional taxable revenue from tourists, as they have to physically come to the state, and buy fuel, food, hotel rooms, souveniers, etc.

      Online Casino - Theoretically taxable, but probably based overseas, so good luck collecting. Open question regarding what jurisdiction gets to tax it. No person actually travels, so no auxilliary income.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        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.
        • 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.

          Perhaps because the barrier to entry for online gaming is lower than having an actual product to sell and the means to efficiently distribute it?

        • Re:Online gambling (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Best ID Ever! (712255) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:12PM (#21339881)
          Because fewer people gamble online and a certain segment of society looks down on it. Simply stated, gambling is easier to pick on.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Samalie (1016193)
      The bottom line, and its simple, is its about the TAX REVENUE.

      Forget about the profits from the casinos the state makes/etc (although that too is VERY signifigant). I'm Canadian (dont hold that against me) and I play a shitpile of online poker. Make a damn fine amount of cash on it too.

      I don't pay a single cent of income tax on my winnings. Part because the online gambling sites have no mechanism for reporting gambling income to the governments. Although I'd still pay my fair share if Canada taxed
      • by Dunbal (464142)
        The bottom line, and its simple, is its about the TAX REVENUE.

              which will be spent by enforcing this law, net gain - zero. In fact it will be more expensive to find out who these "online" gamblers are, take them to court, and lock them up, feed them and house them for a few years, then help them try to live a life after no one wants to give them a job because they now have a "criminal record". Yep, government makes a LOT of sense.
      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        "The bottom line, and its simple, is its about the TAX REVENUE....Part because the online gambling sites have no mechanism for reporting gambling income to the governments....If its thru the state casinos - he has a direct line. If its from some cayman islands offshore gambling company, they know you aren't going to report the income, nor pay taxes on it."

        Well, yes, it is all about tax revenue...but, I don't think they're thinking clear on this.

        If they made US based online gaming legal...those would be e

    • by noldrin (635339)
      I think it's more like: gambling is bad, addictive and destroys society, unless the government is making money off of it, then it good and everyone should do it. With the amount Mass advertises the lottery to entice new people to play, I feel the state has lost all moral authority to decide what is bad or good for us (if they ever should have had that in the first place) Do you know that in Mass that if you sell lottery tickets, you are barred from ever suggesting to someone that they have spent too much
    • You disagree with him so that makes him corrupt? You have no proof he is corrupt but I have a strong case that you are guilty of libel.
      • by blueskies (525815)

        but I have a strong case that you are guilty of libel.
        Uh, not really.
        • Libel [nolo.com], an untruthful statement about a person, published in writing or through broadcast media, that injures the person's reputation or standing in the community.
    • 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 f
      • We'll probably get a chance to figure out if it still works thanks to China, but for better or worse remains to be seen.
      • Maybe someone could help me out here. Let's say I'm a lefty populist trying to shoehorn everything into a "teh evil corporationzorz" story. Now, am I supposed to see protectionism as a noble attempt to protect my job, and the middle class, from competition, or as a way to prop up the superprofits of domestic industry?

        Because I've seen the BOTH stories, sometimes within the same book!
      • by Nursie (632944) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @01:07PM (#21337881)
        For god's sake! the democrats are right wing, free market industrialists and professionals. JUST like the republicans.

        Socialism is national healthcare, nationalised industries, nationalised housing, government control of resources.

        The democrats and republicans are two very closely related flavours of free market conservatism (with a huge military/industrial bias).

        You don't know what socialism is.
        • Huh. Femocrats. Yeah, you can use that one.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by lightsaber777 (920815)
          "Socialism is national healthcare, nationalised industries, nationalised housing, government control of resources." Have you seen Hillary Clinton's platform? National Healthcare, increased government regulation of industry, return to welfare state... it has a lot of the principles you just listed as the earmarks of socialism.
    • "Gambling is immoral... if they haven't donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to my campaign." Hell if prostitutes had a lobby that would be legal too.
  • 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?
  • Please read: if you are not brainless.
  • 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.

    --Richard
    • Re:Constituants (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:30PM (#21337285) Journal
      His push is coming from the usual conflict of people who pee themselves if you start talking about raising taxes but don't want cuts in government benefits or services. So the pressure is on to create pseudotaxes via fees, fines, or gambling gimmicks. Since Connecticut has the Monhegan Sun resort drawing bored old folks from MA in droves to it there has been a push to keep their money at home. The Mashpee natives then started pushing to get permission, as a recognized Native-American nation, to build a casino on their land in MA. Once it started to look like it might happen the genie was out of the bottle and talk started of opening other casinos around MA.

      Now MA, like most states, has had a lottery for a while. It generates money that gets passed on to towns, mainly for schools. The lottery is run by a state agency so all of the money stays in it. If they have casinos though, most of the money will go into private hands. There is only so much cash people have to piss away on gambling so this money is going to come from, you guessed it, what they would've spent on the lottery. So the state is taking from one pocket and putting it in another except this one has a hole in it.

      The response to this is the proponents say "The money will come from what would've gone to CT casinos so it won't hurt the lottery very much and we'll have the CT money too." Well, no one should expect Monhegan Sun to sit on its butt and let us take its business. It will fight and CT may agree to take less for the state. Other states like NH and ME may jump in. Competition would cut state shares and in the end more would go down the private profit drain and the state (and citizens) would lose.

      All this because people can't face reality and deal with taxes.
      • by plague3106 (71849)
        All this because people can't face reality and deal with taxes.

        Actually its all because people can't deal with reality and themselves pay to educate their kids, hire police to sit around and hand out fines for things which aren't dangerous, demand that kids not be able to play violent video games, or even be bothered to ensure they can support themselves and their family without outside assistance.
  • by Silver Sloth (770927) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @11:49AM (#21336611)
    2 years and $25k! FFS! Is it me or is that totally over the top. I'm glad I live in the UK where I can enjoy online poker without risking the sort of punishment meeted out for serious crime.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MozeeToby (1163751)
      I agree, especially since their rationale is ussually that gambling "tears families apart", "Ruins lives", and "Oh God, won't somebody please think of the children!?".

      Well, a two year prison sentence tends to tear families apart just as well I would imagine.
  • 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 www.meetup.com, 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 hedwards (940851) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:08PM (#21336931)

      For example, I'm a member of a local group on www.meetup.com, 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.
      • by zotz (3951)
        "I don't think that there is a good reason why it needs to be a felony."

        The felony game...

        Simple game.

        At least if a felony brings a loss of voting rights where you are...

        Make it a felony, convict your opposition, now they can't vote you out...

        (Not saying it is done... but it sure must tempt some...)

        all the best,

        drew

        http://dangernovel.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]
        Danger - A Safe Bahamian Novel
      • Misdemeanor perhaps, but making it a felony for the people playing is more than a little over kill.

        Yes, but then your political opponents could accuse you of being "soft on crime" and you don't want to be "soft on crime" do you? So you vote to lock them up and throw away the key because the constituents want blood and the online gamblers are not enough a voting block to make a difference.
    • by mcmonkey (96054)
      IANAL, but generally if no one is taking any money from the gambling operation you're legal. Wagers between private parties are okay, but if the host is taking a rake from the pot there could be trouble.

      And I'd be less concerned about the state coming after you for use of the internet and more concerned with the Feds and using the telephone.
    • by plague3106 (71849)
      Actually what you're doing (even without using the internet) may already be considered illegal gambling in your state. That's the case in many states.
    • by cayenne8 (626475)
      "For example, I'm a member of a local group on www.meetup.com, 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?"

      You probably need to look into existing laws of your city/state. In most place that I know of, what you describe...the "friendly poker game" is and had be

  • by Peter Trepan (572016) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @11:53AM (#21336661)

    The bill, if passed, would make online gambling punishable by up to 2 years in prison and $25k in fines.

    Because without this measure, gambling fathers will put their families in incredible debt.

    • by Dunbal (464142)
      Because without this measure, gambling fathers will put their families in incredible debt.

            Yeah, only the government should be allowed to do that...
  • by Otter (3800)

    The Poker Players Alliance, a group that says it represents the interests of online gamblers, began a letter-writing campaign last week and has generated 1,700 letters to the governor and various state legislators. The Washington-based organization has 16,000 members in Massachusetts, which is a fraction of what the alliance estimates are the 250,000 online poker players in the state.

    That's a pretty good upper bound for estimating civic-mindedness. The state is threatening to send their asses to jail for tw

    • Re:Apathy (Score:4, Informative)

      by Gorm the DBA (581373) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:07PM (#21336909) Journal
      Umm...actually...for one week after a single "Get out the mail" e-mail...10% is *pretty damned good* as a response rate.

      Most "political activism" groups are happy with 5%-10% participation after an intense effort to "get out the mail" over several attempts and several weeks.

      The NRA, famous for "flooding" Washington with letters, averages around 3% response to it's "Legislative alerts". Admittedly, a larger scale, since they have way more members, and a National issue rather than One Single State, but still...10% does not suck.

      • by Otter (3800)
        Umm...actually...for one week after a single "Get out the mail" e-mail...10% is *pretty damned good* as a response rate.

        That's precisely my point. This isn't some policy issue, it's a law that would send all of them to jail! We can conclude that 10% is about as good as you can possibly get -- thus "upper bound".

        • by darjen (879890)
          Perhaps most people assume that they won't be able to enforce it very effectively. How exactly would they know if I play a $1 hold 'em tournament on Poker Stars?

          Unless they get their internet from AT&T... hmm it's all coming together now.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @11:57AM (#21336731)
    And so-called "victimless crimes" like gambling, marijuana, non-martial sex, etc. seem to be a losing enforcement battle too. At some point the governement may focus on real problems like terrorism, crumbling infrastructure, economic inequality and so on.
    • by B3ryllium (571199)
      I think you should eliminate terrorism from your list of problems, given how the so-called War on Terrorism is being run.

      In fact, I think the word "terrorism" should fall out of usage, and that such extremists should be revealed for what they are: criminals.

      Pursuant to that, I also think that a multinational commission should be set up to investigate and punish those criminals. It shouldn't be up to one country to do it. I'm thinking the United Nations could help ... it could be a United Nations Criminal La
      • I'm thinking the United Nations could help ... it could be a United Nations Criminal Law Enforcement Commission.

        Or, to abbreviate it, The UNCLE Commission.

        I am not sure if you are being serious or not, but thinking the UN could solve terrorism is hilarious, I predict it would mostly be uppity judges in Europe issuing warrants for US. governors who sign death warrants for capital crimes. Not much of a solution.
    • And so-called "victimless crimes" like gambling, marijuana, non-martial sex
      As opposed to martial sex, which usually has victims. Or at least victors/losers on the battlefield of love.
    • And so-called "victimless crimes" like gambling, marijuana, non-martial sex, etc. seem to be a losing enforcement battle too. At some point the governement may focus on real problems like terrorism, crumbling infrastructure, economic inequality and so on.
      But those things are hard... why try to get elected on a platform of "I'm going to do my best, and a lot of it probably won't work," when you can just run a "hard on crime" platform by demonizing a few minorities?
  • by shrubya (570356) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @11:59AM (#21336773) Homepage Journal
    What kind of legislature accepts proposed legislation directly from the executive?
    • by plague3106 (71849)
      Well, the US government allows a bill to be submitted by virtually anyone to a representative. Is there a particular reason someone in the Executive branch shouldn't be allowed to suggest a bill?
  • 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.
    • While I think the political motivations behind these laws are often different from what you've mentioned, I do think you've hit the big legitimate argument right on the head. When you shove money into a slot machine in Las Vegas, you can at least rest easy that the casino is playing the game fairly. Nevada has a pretty big regulatory structure surrounding casino gambling that does a good job of ensuring that the house only gets its legitimate take.

      Of course, then the question becomes, how do you regulate
      • by bigdavex (155746)

        Of course, then the question becomes, how do you regulate online gambling based in places like Antigua or Costa Rica? I think that's where the US has a legitimate beef concerning internationally-based online gambling, because there's no way to know whether US citizens are getting ripped off or not.

        The government doesn't give a crap about that. If they allowed domestic online gaming, we'd find out how much the players value that oversight.

    • by budword (680846)
      Any you protect them by putting them in prison ? Players protect themselves by playing at a place they trust. The online poker rooms would lose hundreds of millions of $ if they found to be cheating, or have unsafe games. The sites themselves do a very good job of rooting out cheating. Get a clue, and don't defend the corrupt. (Strange that off shore gambling is less corrupt than our own politicians .)
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:00PM (#21336793) Journal
    to ensure that gambling in Mass. will be full of corruption than to have politicians involved in it. I'm sure the penalties are just, as is the promise of a ride to the beach with a Kennedy.

    I'm all for smaller government sooner rather than later. Apparently, at least in Mass., it's okay to propose legislation that makes you look so corrupt that half the world is reading about you. The throngs of people (Honorable J Carter even) that want to decriminalize things that have been prohibited for a while is getting bigger and bigger, approaching critical mass, yet the US believes it can ban all online gambling? WTF? Prohibition and censorship do NOT work. I wish the US had a government that understood that. Oh, let me add abstinence to that list also. If only god had been so forward thinking as to add an 11th commandment: Thou shalt not legislate morality. Even if Moses had had an epiphany on the way down the mountain... two really good opportunities missed!! Just one little commandment, 5 words, even in stone tablet writing costs, that is cheap.

    How much death and mayhem could have been avoided in the world?
    • by Kintar1900 (901219) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:08PM (#21336921) Homepage

      If only god had been so forward thinking as to add an 11th commandment: Thou shalt not legislate morality.

      *hits his Jeopardy buzzer* What is Irony?

      • by timeOday (582209)
        There is a big difference between believing that God will punish somebody for something, and taking it into your own hands.
    • what about the neighbor and weigh part? :-)
    • ...to ensure that gambling in Mass. will be full of corruption than to have politicians involved in it.

      ...to ensure that gambling anywhere will be full of corruption than to have politicians involved in it.

      There, fixed it for you.

    • by gclef (96311)
      Almost all legislation is morality. (Taxes are about the only thing that aren't about morality.)

      "Murder = bad" is moral declaration. Same with "stealing = bad." Almost all of our laws come from variants of these (hurting people = bad leads to laws on assault. Stealing = bad leads to straight theft laws, fraud laws, etc).

      The problem with this legislation isn't that it's legislating morality. It's that it's legislating from a moral code that you disagree with.
    • If only god had been so forward thinking as to add an 11th commandment: Thou shalt not legislate morality.

      Heck, if I were God, I would have done it just for the irony.

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:07PM (#21336917)
    Legality: Dubious at best. Intrastate online gaming they can control but not interstate or international (see Wickard v. Filburn). Also could the law be read to include the winning of anything fungible? If so WoW will soon be illegal.

    Enforcement: If it becomes a criminal act does this mean the cops will be kicking in doors to arrest? How about using no-knock warrants? The magic eight ball says: "All signs point to yes". Welcome to the People's Republic of Massachusetts.

    Gov. Patrick is on the way to becoming an every worse Governor than Romney (who set the bar pretty low).
  • by Anonymous Coward
    notice that no one pointed out that devil patrick is a democrat. i thought it was only fat stooge evil republicans that wanted this kind of control over their subjects. i always thought the democrats carried the one true torch of freedom and never did wrong. no corruption in the dnc, no way.

    hell, this man may even drive an suv!
    • Standard operating procedure. You can tell when it's a democrat doing something stupid, because they leave off the party affiliation. If it's a republican, you can be sure that the party affiliation will be firmly attached. It's not like the press is biased in any way, is it? Makes you wonder what other news they are playing with.
  • I'm not interested in it myself but why is it so frowned upon in the US? 2 years seems extraordinarily OTT for something like that when you could be out in 18months for assault, theft etc.
  • 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 basic0 (182925)
      You're assuming that politicians understand the situation or even want to understand it. No, it's more of the same B.S. from the old farts in charge who are completely out of touch with just about everyone else. They find one topic that for some reason offends their morals, and decide it's high time they impose their twisted ethics on the people they're supposed to represent. Aren't they there to speak for the majority, not tell the majority what is and isn't right? Does the majority in MA support excessive
  • by mattr (78516) <mattr.telebody@com> on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:16PM (#21337057) Homepage Journal
    I would like to add a data point. At one time I was asked to get involved in a venture by a Scandinavian company that was said to include a past head of the NYSE on its board. The venture was meant to be a game, not strictly gambling, though it seemed you could in fact win money. It was walking a thin line in a grey area.

    People got cold feet and it evaporated as U.S. legislators gave hints that it would become illegal, but it seems to me that there remains a very grey area inhabited by the stock exchange, online gambling, virtual worlds like second life and massive multiplayer games with their own currencies and conversion rates. Games of chance and skill abound in already addictive and immersive worlds.

    At the time even experienced people thought the line was drawn in one place but now it is perhaps in another. I would like to note that the venture I mention was not a casino. It was supposed to teach you about the stock market.

    I think the definition of gambling these days has little to do with people's welfare. The definition is made by legislators and government executives, and involves a cynical calculation and the creation of a protected and coveted revenue source for a municipality.
  • This is only in the bill because the main part of the bill is for allowing MA to build 2 new casinos. This is just a way of filtering out competition. If you can have the government force a monopoly position, why not?

    did they name the bill "Gambling Enablement Bill of 2007"?
  • Strange thinking (Score:2, Interesting)

    by adsl (595429)
    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" methodol
  • There are unsolved violent crimes against people and property. Why are law enforcement resources being used to stop something that is a vice that most people who are into it can walk away from without any harm whatsoever? Gambling is only a problem for a minority of gamblers.

    People do hurt themselves over gambling. I knew a guy who killed himself over it. The real reason he did that, though, was that he had the sort of personality that couldn't tolerate failure. It wasn't even like he was "addicted." He was
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by east coast (590680)
      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.
  • There is Business, then there is Government.

    They are two sides of the exact same coin.

    A government will not allow anyone to get in the way of its easy, controlled, profitable, legislated revenue streams(casinos, lottery, taxes, etc.), no more than a competitive business would.
  • I don't know how I actually feel on the issue of gambling in general, though my gut goes against it. However the fact that new casinos are being allowed alongside harsh penalties being proposed for online gambling seems to kill any reasonable argument for either side. A $25,000 fine for online gambling is just ridiculous. This is obviously not a protectionist measure. It's purely economic and not necessarily in the best interest of the people. The harm of the penalty is inappropriately greater than the
  • by Alzheimers (467217) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @12:52PM (#21337599)
    He's bluffing. Go all in!
  • by budword (680846) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @01:01PM (#21337777)
    Anyone else find it strange that offshore gambling sites are less corrupt than our own politicians ? I know I trust them more. The offshore gambling sites need my trust to make millions. The politicians I KNOW are taking corporate money to screw me over. Not just screw me out of cash anymore either, they are taking money to send me to prison now, to make more cash for themselves. Someone should go to prison for bribery.
  • by stomv (80392) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @01:01PM (#21337783) Homepage
    First, you must understand that there's no casinos currently in MA, but there are two on Native American tribal land which are quite close in CT.

    Then, you must understand that Massachusetts has lotto, scratch offs, "mega" scratch offs which cost $20, participates in multi-state mega jackpot lotteries, and has keno.

    Then, you must understand that a Native American tribe is currently trying [with the help of a major casino corporation] to build a casino on their tribal lands in MA.

    Then, you must understand that MA's left and right oriented folks are generally unified against the casinos, fighting against a likely larger but certainly more apathetic middle group of moderates.

    Then, you must understand that due to Prop 2.5 which restricts property tax revenue from growing more than 2.5% each year on existing property -- which is lower than general inflation and gov't cost inflation due to health care costs and energy costs growing upwards of 10% per year -- is putting a tighter and tighter squeeze on local government. Property taxes are the primary way that local governments obtain revenue, necessary to pay their share of infrastructure, education, safety, and overhead costs.

    Then, you must understand that the supermajority Democratic state legislators are petrified of raising any taxes any where at any time.

    Then, you must understand that Governor Deval Patrick proposed some local options taxes, where a town or city could add an additional levy on restaurants and keep some of that money and share the rest with the state. This is opposed by the Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader, making it effectively dead on Beacon Hill. There were a few other local options of which I've forgotten.

    Then, you must understand that the Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader are very powerful in MA government, and that legislators who buck them tend to find all of their bills dead in committee, don't get any influential committee assignments, and get assigned to the leaky, small, smelly basement offices.

    .
    .
    .

    So, you've got a financial crunch at the local level. The Lege won't pass the Gov's revenue initiative. As far as casinos go, it's not clear what the Governor wants to see happen.

    My guess? He wants the casino bill to fail. He's effectively added poison pills to the bill, exploiting NIMBYism and perhaps now this ban on Internet gambling so that the bill loses supporters. If the casino push crashes and burns, the Lege may have to revisit his proposal for local options. In short, this is way more complex than the standard /. cynical responses to politicians such as suggestions of corruption or corporate connection or nanny state or blah blah Ron Paul blah blah or somesuch.

    Disclaimer:
    I live in MA
    I am a very local elected [unpaid] official
    I was an early supporter of Deval Patrick's campaign for governor
    I was a Democratic Party precinct captain
    I am opposed to any and all legalized gambling in MA, including the state-run lottery monopolies
    • I am opposed to any and all legalized gambling in MA, including the state-run lottery monopolies

      Why do you feel the need to control this? When you say you're opposed to legalizing private behavior of individuals, that's when the rest of us start going "blah blah Ron Paul blah blah" or some such.

      Eventually, nanny-statists like yourself will start to lose elections based on your incurable need to control every aspect of your subjects' lives. Kind of a shame in your case since you sound like a bright, ration
      • by stomv (80392)

        But I won't go there.

        How I feel about it is irrelevant to the discussion. I put out some background information to help /. readers see that this issue is complicated and has a complex back-story... things of which the vast majority of out-of-state /.ers (and many in-state /.ers) wouldn't likely be aware.

        The "disclosures" on the bottom were my attempt to remain fair to the issue, in addition to attempting to write the actual post in a fair manner.

  • Mass resident here (Score:3, Informative)

    by Reverberant (303566) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @01:12PM (#21337971) Homepage

    I'm a Massachusetts residence [wikipedia.org] who's been observing the whole gambling thing over the past six months. I don't know exactly why Deval wants to criminalize online gambling, but I can give you some background into the whole debate.

    First of all, why does the state want to legalize gambling in the first place? You guessed it: money. The state is facing severe budget shortfalls in pretty much all areas, but especially the transportation infrastructure [boston.com] (and for you non-Mass Romney supporters out there: remember this when Romney brags about his economic accomplishments. He didn't to shit except turn Massachusetts into the butt of his jokes [washingtonpost.com]). Some of the state's biggest cities (Boston, Springfield, Lawrence, Lowell, etc) have violent crime problems and these cities are looking for money to fund the police and outreach programs.

    The state is trying very hard to develop new revenue streams by encouraging investment in biotech [boston.com] and green energy [renewablee...access.com]. But the problem with trying to bring those industries into Massachusetts is that land/rents in the eastern part of the state (with access to MIT, Harvard, Northeastern, etc) is very expensive. Costs in the western part of the state is significantly cheaper, but you don't have the highly-educated workforce like you do in the eastern part of the space. Also, these initiatives are long-term fixes, and we need money now.

    So some Mass residents have been gazing longingly at Foxwoods [foxwoods.com] and Mohegan Sun [mohegansun.com] in Connecticut (especially since lots of Mass residents spend money there) and have decided "we want some of that!" Hence the push to legalize gambling.

    Of course the push toward casino gambling has created opposition with their concerns. Most of the concerns center around the potential for increased crime - some of the proposed locations (including Springfield) are dealing with crime problems and are worried that the casinos may create more crime, but since the state will be taking most of the money, the city/town will have to deal with the crime levels on their own. This isn't an unreasonable concern - western Massachusetts used to have homeless and public assistance centers all over the region, but they were consolidated by Romney into Springfield. Since western Mass doesn't have an extensive public transporation infrastructure, people on public assistance (and in too many cases, their deadbeat/criminal children/SO/spouses, etc) came to live in Springfield without a corresponding increase in the LEO/outreach budget which help cause our crime levels to spike.

    Patrick (or his advisers/aides) spent some time meeting with people on both sides of the issues and researching the expected benefits and disadvantages to weigh the tradeoffs. Patrick finally recommended legalizing gambling at three casinos (eastern Mass, western Mass, and the Cape) after deciding that those three casinos could be prove beneficial, and create manageable problems.

    That's where we are. So why the harsh penalties for online gambling? Maybe he is corrupt, but having seen how he kept his composure in response to a brutal campaign waged by his gubernatorial opponent [wikipedia.org] last year makes me doubt that. My guess would be that it's a gift to casino opponents who are worried that unchecked gambling in the state might lead to increased problems in already high crime areas.

    I can't say I'm all that happy that these penalties are in the bill, but given the various problems the state is

  • How else could one possibly interpret a bill that promotes one gambling business while criminalizing another?

    It's actually kind of scary -- the only tiny little lever we have to keep politicians in check is their desire to not appear too corrupt. (I realize how laughable this has become, but still.)

    In this case it's like they're saying they don't even give a damn if we know for sure they're corrupt. Which to me is a sad progression.

    Cheers.

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