Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Barney Frank has submitted his bill to legalize and regulate online gambling and the opposition is trotting out some seriously irrational arguments against it.

Opponents are mobilizing to defeat the bill. They include social conservatives and professional and amateur sports organizations, which say more gambling opportunities could threaten the integrity of their competition.

“Illegal offshore Internet gambling sites are a criminal enterprise, and allowing them to operate unfettered in the United States would present a clear danger to our youth, who are subject to becoming addicted to gambling at an early age,” Representative Spencer Bachus, Republican of Alabama and the ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee, said in a statement.


You have to love the use of their illegality as an argument against legalizing them. Yeah, if you don’t legalize and regulate them, they are indeed, by definition, criminal enterprises in this country. The whole point of the legislation is to fix that. And the “what about the children” argument is the standard tactic of every moralizer in history.

Mr. Bachus remains skeptical about age verification technology and other safeguards, citing 2007 testimony from an Internet security expert before his committee asserting that such “security measures are inherently unreliable, can be trivially circumvented and will fail at high rates.”

Well yes, and fake IDs are manufactured too. No system is perfect. But is Bachus using the existence of fake IDs to argue that adults should be prevented from purchasing alcohol? Of course not. We tried prohibition and it was a miserable failure, yet we fail to learn the lessons from that.

The other big opposition comes from the NFL and the NCAA, who claim that this bill will lead to more sports betting and that will be bad – despite the fact that the bill explicitly keeps sports betting online illegal.

Despite the language banning sports betting, the four major professional sports leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association believe the bill could in fact encourage gambling on games. In a strongly worded letter to the House Financial Services Committee, the groups said the legislation “reverses nearly 50 years of clear federal policy against sports betting and it opens the door wide to sports gambling on the Internet.”

A bill that specifically does NOT change current law on sports betting somehow reverses the status quo. I’ll take non sequiturs for $1000, Alex.