If there is one word to describe U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte, (R-Virginia), that word is persistent.
Goodlatte, arguably the most outspoken opponent of Internet gambling, has been trying to pass an anti-gambling bill for years. Every time legislators or industry leaders find a problem with one of his efforts, Goodlatte revises the bill to assure his colleagues and constitutents that the new and improved legislation will make everyone happy.
Those who disagree with efforts to ban online gambling are left to wonder about Goodlatte’s motives.
Is he a strict moralist who thinks gambling is inherently evil? Who is Bob Goodlatte trying to snare — operators of online gambling casinos, or individual Americans who choose to gamble on the Internet?
One reason most online gambling bills have not yet seen the gotten to the president’s desk is that these questions have yet to be adequately addressed.
Early in the online gambling debate, individual states spoke up and objected to any type of legislation that would prevent them from operating lotteries online. Goodlatte’s response to the growing chorus of state voices? Subsequent versions of the bill make an exception for state lotteries.
Next, the horse racing industry got nervous about the anti-gambling bills, arguing that any adjustment to telecommunications laws that affect betting on the ponies threatens their industry.
Goodlatte’s response? The new bill doesn’t touch horse racing. It also doesn’t seek to amend the legality of Native American-owned casinos, another group that expressed concern about proposed legislation.
Goodlatte appears to give special dispensation to any group that barks loud enough.
Who Are Those Guys?
Most significantly, the real objects of Goodlatte’s ire may be untouchable.
If, for example, the bill seeks to shut down unlawful gambling operations, many of which operate outside of the continental United States, any legislative effort may be an exercise in futility.
Suppose a site operates from the Cayman Islands and Goodlatte targets it as one of the many offenders in his legislation. Does anyone believe the operators would ever have to truly account for their actions?
Recent history demonstrates that when the heat is turned up on illegal Web operations, the owners simply shut down their site and re-open under a different name, or from a different location.
Does the U.S. truly have the resources, the time or the need to chase such operators around the globe when most of them cannot be brought to trial anyway?
Goodlatte’s latest bill, the Combating Illegal Gambling Reform and Modernization Act, introduced on November 1, pretends to be constructed in the interest of individuals, and in the best interest of U.S. financial concerns.
It is just the opposite.
Goodlatte is attempting to dictate to American citizens how they may spend their money. He is also attempting to paint a picture of offshore gambling operations as evil, and subject to U.S. regulation.
The truth is that a number of online gambling concerns probably operate outside the U.S. simply to avoid the never-ending skepticism of Big Brother, and even if indicted for violations of U.S. laws, would probably not be brought to trial.
Get a Grip
What Goodlatte and other anti-gambling legislators fail to recognize is that technology moves much faster than laws that attempt to regulate it. If his current bill passes, will he then craft new bills to outlaw wireless gambling that crosses borders, or interactive television operations that more easily enable online gambling?
The representative’s efforts are an example of outdated legislative thinking attempting to impose unrealistic demands on an emerging, global industry.
If Goodlatte wants to make a real contribution, he should concentrate on ensuring individual freedom of choice, while reasonably regulating an industry that is inevitably going to find a way to operate in the new economy.
Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.