This piece in the LA Times mentions the current pressure to legalize some forms of Internet gambling, with a hint of the real story:
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) have both introduced bills in Congress to lift a federal ban on much online play and clarify the law, which is even murkier than it is for physical casinos, if that's possible. Their goals include taking a piece of the action for the U.S. Treasury, on the political principle that sins always seem less deadly when there's money to be squeezed from them. The consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated in 2007 that legalization could yield as much as $43 billion in tax revenue over 10 years if it includes sports betting, $34 billion even if it doesn't.
Another impetus is that new Federal Reserve and Treasury Department rules requiring banks and other financial institutions to block gambling transfers will go into effect Dec. 1, and the banks are screaming bloody murder about the added regulatory burden.
Internet gambling is one of those issues that shines a light on the distribution of juice in Washington.
The repeal bills delight casino companies such as Harrah’s Entertainment, which is hankering to expand its thriving poker business online and has spent about $1 million this year alone to lobby Congress for legalization. But they also leave intact a ban on Internet sports betting, which pleases outfits like the National Football League, no slouch in the Washington lobbying game.
Here are few things to think about. I’ve read a lot about what Harrah’s thinks, what the Poker Players Alliance thinks, and what the NFL thinks. How about what the American people think? If you allow people to gamble online in one form, is there really any logical reason not to let them bet on anything they want? It’s like saying you can buy books but not DVDs online.
Naturally, if a form of gambling is completely banned, like betting on dog-fighting, you wouldn’t be able to offer that. Outside of that restriction, I don’t see the legal or ethical rationale behind championing poker at the expense of sports betting.
In fact, the reason is right up there in the last paragraph that I quoted–there is big money behind poker, and not much against, and big money against sports betting. Again, the actual desires of the people don’t seem to come into play. This isn’t good, because either way you look at it a populace eager to gamble is being held hostage to special interests, or a pernicious new form of gambling is about to be foisted on an unwilling nation.