Millions of Americans take part in Internet gamblng regularly, even though the Justice Department says they’re supporting an illegal enterprise, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Major corporations are looking at ways to make a profit from it, even though Congress is eyeing tougher restrictions. Internet wagering is a $12 billion a year industry in which politics, morals, profits, individual rights, and world trade issues merge and sometimes collide head-on. The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on legislation aimed at countering Americans’ ability to place sports bets, play poker, and otherwise risk money in games of chance on their computers.
Meanwhile, the American Gaming Association is urging Congress to study the online gambling issue to see if technology has provided a trustworthy way to legalize, regulate, and tax online wagering, as Britain is doing. Industry giants like MGM Mirage and Harrah’s see online players as perhaps their best new opportunity for revenue growth. Government prosecutors hold that this newest form of gambling is illegal within the U.S., with or without new legislation, though they’re mostly helpless to stop it. Despite its illegality, an estimated 4 million to 7 million Americans are Internet gamblers, with poker driving the latest surge. The state of Washington made wagers over the Internet a felony starting June 7, but officials have indicated they will not enforce the law aggressively.