Mass. Wants Two-Year Prison Terms for Online Poker Players

So not only is Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick calling for two-year jail terms and a $25,000 fine for people caught gambling online, the proposal comes in a bill whose larger purpose is to allow for three new casinos in Massachusetts.

I've seen the same politician push bricks-and-mortar casinos in one bill while restricting online gambling in another. And of course, states like Texas, Illinois, and Virginia have cracked down on private gambling and poker games while spending millions promoting lottery scratch-offs with card-playing and poker themes.

But to call for tossing online gamblers in prison while pushing for new casinos in the same bill? Points to Patrick for testicular fortitude, I guess. And for at least being open and transparent about his bald protectionism.

It'll also be interesting to see how Massachusetts plans to enforce the law. Force ISPs to start turning over the identity of customers who visit poker sites? Random searches of bank statements? SWAT teams?

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  • lunchstealer||

    Force ISPs to start turning over the identity of customers who visit poker sites?

    Possibly.

    Random searches of bank statements?

    Maybe.

    SWAT teams?

    BINGO!

  • ||

    SWAT teams, of course. One more reason for police to play soldier and get dressed up with massive amounts of armor and firepower. It has got to be fun to break down a door and throw [insert: cards players, marijuana smokers, old ladies] to the floor. Not to mention, of course, one more reason to need more money for Police Departments to start a new Gambling Task Force to battle the War on Gambling.

  • ||

    So not only is Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick calling for two-year jail terms and a $25,000 fine for people caught gambling online, the proposal comes in a bill whose larger purpose is to allow for three new casinos in Massachusetts.

    If I were to inspect the honorable governor's campaign finance records, would I find casino money? Whaddya ythink, guys?

  • ed||

    I'd bet on it.

  • ktc2||

    Yup, they'll take a page from the drug war handbook. Anonymous tips, no knock SWAT raids, kill everyone, plant evidence and call it a success.

  • Jozef||

    Isn't the no knock SWAT raid excused by trying to prevent the victim from flushing his drugs down the toilet? It's not all that easy to do the same with computers, so why not knocking before entering, just like civilized people do?

  • bromo98||

    The first person to violate the new law? Oh, yes, it will be the governor himself when he calls the governor of whatever state the New England Pats play in the SuperBowl to make their traditional "I'll bet some of my local delicacies against some of yours" wager.

  • ||

    Jozef -- They'll use the other built-in excuse for no-knock raids: Gambling and weapons are inextricably linked, and therefore they have to go in with the assumption that the gamblers are armed -- it's for the safety of both the officers and the subjects of the raid!

    yeah, can't say that with a straight face.

  • ||

    I'd bet on it.

    Hopefully, not online, and not in Massachusetts.

  • Jennifer||

    I at least admire the honesty inherent in this bill: Massachusetts is no longer even PRETENDING that its laws are for the benefit of its citizenry.

  • ||

    "Force ISPs to start turning over the identity of customers who visit poker sites?"

    He should call Hu Jintao for some pointers.

  • ||

    I'd bet they'll claim otherwise. The argument they'll use is that by restricting gambling to brick and mortar casinos, they're reducing the chances of children gambling online and creating the possibility of being able to screen out problem gamblers. They're also able to make sure that no one gets to avoid paying taxes on their winnings, and that tax money will fund education(Doesn't it always).

    Now, if they happen to arrest and imprison(or accidentally kill) a few people for doing at home what they can legally travel to a state-approved location to do, well, you can't make an omelet...

  • ||

    Well said Jennifer. Bravo

  • ||

    I think I've got it figured out. Gambling is bad. It's immoral. It destroys families and is a danger to our community. But if the Commonwealth of Massachusetts gets a cut, it's OK. We established that important precedent a long time ago.

    Any questions?

  • ||

    This kinda thing is why it's hard to know which side to root for when the government goes after the mob... well, who am I kidding - I root for the mob. But seriously, how can anyone see this kind of thing and not realize that government is, through regulation, mostly a protection racket for the well-connected, and in general, one big stinking cesspool of corruption (as J sub D notes, you know damn well the good Governor has raised a significant chunk of change from the casino interests). And yet most people still give fawning deference to those "noble public servants" who just want to do good... well, the ones in their party anyway. Ultimately I think I blame the government run schools civics classes for installing this respect for government officials instead of a healthy does of skepticism, but then is that any surprise? If the mob ran the schools I doubt they'd teach us that Capone was just a ruthless thug either.

  • ||

    It's not protectionism, it's vote-buying.

    The anti-internet gambling language was thrown in to try to neutralize some of the opposition to the casino bill.

  • ||

    calling for two-year jail terms and a $25,000 fine for people caught gambling online,

    Possession of a Class A substance (Heroin, Morphine, GHB, Special K) under Mass laws carries with it the following penalties:

    For a First (1st) offense, a maximum sentence of 2 years in jail.
    For a Second (2nd) offense, up to 2 1/2 years in jail, or up to 5 years in state prison.

    Possession of a Class B substance (Cocaine, LSD, Ecstasy, Oxycontin/oxycodone hydrochloride, Amphetamine, & Methamphetamine) under Massachusetts drug laws carries with it the following penalties:

    For a First (1st) offense, a maximum sentence of 1 year in jail.
    For a Second (2nd) offense, up to 2 years in jail.

    The max fine in both cases is $2,000. I got the info here.

    My proposed ad campaign slogan -
    Online gambling, it's worse than being a junkie.

  • ||

    ARRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

  • ||

    It's not protectionism, it's vote-buying.

    It's both.

  • ||

    So much for Dems and liberals being for civil liberties and freedom of choice. I will take the GOP and tax cuts any day.

  • ||

    Probably SWAT teams, Radley.

    And I do love this blog- some days I get two or three reasons to never, ever live in the Northeast as an adult (spent five or so years as a kid in Lewiston, Maine, but I was young enough to just enjoy playing in the snow.)

  • ||

    So much for Dems and liberals being for civil liberties and freedom of choice. I will take the GOP and tax cuts any day.


    You mean the GOP that actually passed a nationwide ban on internet gambling in Congress?

  • ||

    lol = go red team!

    joe = go blue team!

  • cgee||

    What, no rider prohibiting possession of LiteBrites?

  • ||

    The anti-internet gambling language was thrown in to try to neutralize some of the opposition to the casino bill.

    Huh? Well, if that's true, I can't help but wonder what kind of idiot this concession appeals to. What, are you saying that someone out there is opposed enough to gambling that the only way he'll accept casinos that he has to actually see and/or live around is to threaten to throw people in the slammer who sit quietly in their own home gambling, completely out of sight and mind of those nosy busybodies who find gambling immoral?

    Anyway, whether it was a log-rolling concession or not, corruption and protection would be the description any reasonable person would attach if similar actions were done by non-government actors (i.e. the mob). Nobody is going to worry about what to call it when in order to expand a gambling racket in one part of town without drawing the ire of the Bonnano family, the Gambinos agree to reign in some of their rouge elements who have been threatening Bonnano territory in another part of the city.

  • ||

    Oh yes, there will be SWAT teams.

    It looks as if the Mass. legislature doesn't have enough real work to do if they can find time to propose laws like this. I know this is contrary to liberaterian principles, but perhaps they can be offered welfare payments if they'll agree to stay at home and do nothing for most of the year. At least this will keep them out of mischief.

  • ||

    lol = go red team!

    joe = go blue team!


    See, I would have thought the fact that my statement was factually accurate, and lol's wasn't, would have been the most appropriate distinction to make...but then, I'm a liberal, and we're big on stuff like that.

    On the one hand...on the other hand...some say...others say...blah blah blah.

  • ||

    Brian Courts,

    I can't help but wonder what kind of idiot this concession appeals to.

    It doesn't appeal to anyone. It's sausage-making. It's giving anti-gambling people just as much of a loaf as it will take to get them on board.

    Anyway, whether it was a log-rolling concession or not, corruption and protection would be the description any reasonable person would attach if similar actions were done by non-government actors (i.e. the mob).

    Yeah, the mob is so constrained by the need to gain majority support for its actions.

  • ||

    lol - So much for Dems and liberals being for civil liberties and freedom of choice. I will take the GOP and tax cuts any day.

    Joe - You mean the GOP that actually passed a nationwide ban on internet gambling in Congress?


    Oddly enough, while Joe did point out the GOP's less than stellar politicing on internet gambling, he somehow managed to side step the tax rate issue lol raised.... hmmmmm.

  • ||

    Well, you see, this is a thread about gambling policy.

    There really isn't anything to be gained by threadjacking it into a general discussion of which party you like better on a bunch of unrelated issues.

  • ||

    Speaking of Massachusetts liberals and internet gambling, any news on Barney Frank's bill to overturn the Repubicans' internet gambling ban?

  • T||

    joe,

    The donks are complicit in passing the internet gambling ban and it's disingenuous of you to pretend otherwise. When the vote total in the aye column is 201 R, 115 D, and 1 I, it's especially insulting. The bill wouldn't have passed without that bipartisan spirit.

  • lunchstealer||

    lol = go red team!

    joe = go blue team!


    A more accurate condensation might be

    lol = go team red!

    joe = fuck team red!

    joe's statement could've come from Thoreau or dhex or Timothy. Except dhex wouldn't have capitolized anything, and woulda phrased it way funnier.

  • ||

    I have a hard time buying joe's claim that the introduction of harsh penalties for online gamblers into Deval's casino bill is simply a bid to buy the votes of anti-gambling folks. The anti-gambling forces are using this new wrinkle in the casino bill as simply more ammunition in their argument AGAINST the bill. Even Barney Frank realizes this, so I'm wondering why joe doesn't. Anti-gambling activist Dan Kennedy provides details here.

  • ||

    Dr. Noisewater (If, indeed, that IS your real name),

    I have no difficulty whatsoever believing that Patrick could put together a political strategy that backfired on him. If you live here, you realize that that's how he rolls.

  • ||

    T,

    R 201-17.

    D 117-76.

    I'm pretty comfortable calling it a Republican bill.

    It was also sponsored by the Republicans, and the opposition led by Democrats.

  • liberaltarian||

    Those God Damn RightWing fundies are at it again!
    Just because their fucking BIBLE says gambling is wrong. Now who says liberal Democrats are worse for liberty NOW???

    ...........uh.....Massachusetts?...Deval Patrick?


    nevermind

  • R C Dean||

    The anti-internet gambling language was thrown in to try to neutralize some of the opposition to the casino bill.

    Lemme get this straight: Some people would only vote for legalizing gambling if you also included language putting people in jail for gambling?

    So, joe, if the opposition [was]led by Democrats, are we happy or sad that the Blues apparently wanted to keep any and all forms of gambling illegal in MA (keeping in mind that internet gambling was apparently already illegal)? Or are you saying the Blues were all for the casinos until the new penalties got added in?

  • T||

    joe,

    I'm pretty comfortable saying that when the majority of sitting members from both parties voted in favor of the bill, neither party (or their supporters) has any moral high ground to stand on when discussing the issue. Call it a Republican bill if you want, but without those 115 Democrat votes, it would've failed. Criticize the measure on its own merits, but when 57% of the Democrats in the House voted for it, partisan politics ain't the best way to make a point.

  • ||

    joe:

    Opposition to the bill comes from mainly two constituencies: the "gambling is bad, m'kay" folks and the "the numbers don't add up" folks. While there's a certain amount of overlap between the two, Deval has always been more concerned with bringing/keeping on board those who don't have a big problem with gambling but that might reside in the latter group. He wrote off the former group from the start.

    The online gambling ban is an effort to bring/keep on board those who are worried about the numbers not adding up. One of the bigger worries of the "numbers" folks is the competition from CT casinos, online gambling, and the potential response from NH and RI. Hunting down online gamblers is designed to address one of the competitors.

    Deval is a political neophyte, but I don't think even HE is capable of a level of stupidity needed to support your claim.

  • ||

    RC,

    Some people would only vote for legalizing gambling if you also included language putting people in jail for gambling? I don't know where you live, RC, but that isn't even the most convoluted strategy to get something through the Massachusetts legislature I've heard of this month. I wouldn't put too much effort into trying to get it straight - it's rarely straight.

    So, joe, if the opposition [was]led by Democrats, are we happy or sad that the Blues apparently wanted to keep any and all forms of gambling illegal in MA (keeping in mind that internet gambling was apparently already illegal)? Or are you saying the Blues were all for the casinos until the new penalties got added in? I can't quite follow your reasoning here about what "Blues" are and aren't doing and supporting, but it seems like suppot and opposition don't break down along partisan lines.

  • ||

    T,

    When about 100% of one party supports something, and the other party is about 50/50 on it...aw, fuck it, call it whatever you want. I don't care.

    Dr. N,

    Interesting theory. I find it difficult to lowball Patrick's ham-handedness when dealing with the legislature.

  • ||

    joe, I see your point, but 60/40 is NOT "about 50/50". Yeah it's a quibble, but you'd nail me for it. ;-)

  • Robert||

    R 201-17.

    D 117-76.

    I'm pretty comfortable calling it a Republican bill.

    It was also sponsored by the Republicans, and the opposition led by Democrats.
    Pardon me if, when one party's votes increases the margin, and/but decreases the percentage, by which the "yes" vote prevailed, I have trouble splitting those hairs.

    Anyway, I figure an act like this to be a plus overall for liberty, because the practical consequence will be that more people will be allowed to gamble. The increased penalties against Internet gambling will have no practical effect.

  • ||

    It's shameful for either party to ban this. Gambling is not directly harmful of anyone, and lots of people enjoy it.

    Does anybody know where the opposition to it comes from, I mean historically? Yeah, I'm sure it was churches, but I mean, WHY? Even churches have to have reasons. Is it the old funamentalist bull about wasting time that could have been spent on something holy? Or is it the reveling in chance (something they tend to hate thinking about)?

    Either way the Congressional Dems and Mass Gov. should be ashamed. They don't have a huge chunk of their constintuency made up of the Religious Right.

  • ||

    Um, the Mass Gov is the one pushing to legalizing gambling for the first time in Massachusetts' history, MNG.

    The opposition up here seems to mainly come from people who believe that it will cause a significant number of people to turn into gambling addicts. When the Gov first announced his initiative, an op-edappeared in the Boston Globe, wherein the writer described watching his father getting beaten up and threatened by gangsters, to whom he owned money to cover gambling losses.

    I'd describe the opposition as focusing more on the social cost - more organized crime, more daddies blowing the mortgage, that sort of thing - than as an ethical objection to games of chance.

  • bromo98||

    Couple 'o Things:

    @T - Let's remember that the bill (UIGEA) was attached to the Port Security bill that few Republicans were going to vote against, and that the President was certainly going to pass. There was no debate directly on the bill itself which limited financial institutions. The framework to enforce the "law" has not even been delivered yet. When it does come down it will have little or no effect on Internet Gaming.

    @MNG:
    Does anybody know where the opposition to it comes from, I mean historically? Yeah, I'm sure it was churches, but I mean, WHY? Even churches have to have reasons. Is it the old funamentalist bull about wasting time that could have been spent on something holy? Or is it the reveling in chance (something they tend to hate thinking about)?
    There is no one part of this that brings everyone together - but you can be sure that the state of Mass. would like to keep the tax money that players are sending out of the US in the state. The current numbers about on-line gambling are waaay overblown at this point (IMHO). So the state would like to think that by "banning" this, they can say they are protecting the citizens of Mass from themselves, as well as protecting the coffers of the Casino companies and the state.

  • Russ 2000||

    It's not all that easy to do the same with computers, so why not knocking before entering, just like civilized people do?

    Format c: = flushing.

  • R C Dean||

    I'd describe the opposition as focusing more on the social cost - more organized crime, more daddies blowing the mortgage, that sort of thing - than as an ethical objection to games of chance.

    Well, while you can blow the mortgage at a casino or on-line, the mob is heavily involved only in casinos.

    So, the geniuses in MA managed to legalize the type of gambling that has the higher social cost, while cranking the penalties (which are also a social cost, lets not forget) on the more benign version.

    Christ on a pogo stick. What a bunch of morons.

  • ||

    Speaking of Massachusetts liberals and internet gambling, any news on Barney Frank's bill to overturn the Repubicans' internet gambling ban?

    I haven't heard anything recently about that, but Frank was quoted a couple days ago saying this Mass bill is a bad idea and that he wished his fellow blue-teamers would be more consistent in supporting people's civil liberties.

    He has become one of the most libertarian members of congress (on social issues at least, not as much on the economic side). Excuse me for stereotyping, but I will support any homosexual for office with the hope that they will respect my lifestyle choices as I respect theirs.

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