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Gambling Online Lucrative for Offshore Companies

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The U.S. House is betting that a federal prohibition against online gambling will close down a lucrative industry that literally attracts millions of bettors eager to risk their cash on the push of a computer button.

We view the attempt as a well-intentioned but quixotic quest to tame the urge of a significant portion of the population to gamble, whether at home sitting in front of the computer or at a table in a glitzy casino.

Rather than abolish online casino gambling, which is what the proposed legislation would attempt to accomplish with the exceptions of state lotteries and horse racing, why not impose regulation and taxes? In short, let the people have what they want, but make certain that Uncle Sam and the states get their cut of the take and oversee how the games are operated.

Although the Justice Department and the House apparently believe that online gambling is illegal, we're not so certain. States do not have laws either proscribing or embracing online gambling. It may not be a violation of any existing law to place an online bet.

House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., makes an excellent point on the insidious side of online gambling: "FBI and Justice Department experts have warned that Internet gambling sites are vulnerable to money laundering, drug trafficking and even terrorists financing."

Those are serious and legitimate concerns that might be resolved through federal regulation of online gambling. Further, taxes collected might be used to pay for all or part of the regulatory process, including criminal investigations. Why not? Online gambling is highly profitable, with revenue estimated from $6 billion to $12 billion a year.

The legislation recently passed by the House would add the Internet to a 1961 law that makes illegal the placing of bets across state lines by telephone. The penalty would be increased from two years in prison to five.

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