Aiding and Betting


The Justice Department is escalating its campaign against online wagering by seizing money from U.S. companies that do business with gambling sites. The government already has scared media companies away from carrying ads for online gambling, which it says could amount to "aiding and abetting" illegal activity. The success of the government's intimidation tactics led to a lawsuit by Tropical Paradise, a gambling operation based in Costa Rica, which in April demanded that Discovery Communications return $3.2 million it had received for TV spots that never ran. Discovery explained that the money had been taken by the government.

Rodney Smolla, dean of the University of Richmond School of Law, told The New York Times such seizures show "a crusader's zeal against offshore gambling." He added: "It's an extraordinary exercise of American hubris to say that we have a right to seize the money….We're using this vehicle to extend our laws into another nation in a very aggressive way."

You may recall that when a World Trade Organization panel expressed sympathy for other countries' complaints about the U.S. treatment of online gambling, members of Congress were outraged. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) called it "appalling," saying, "It cannot be allowed to stand that another nation can impose its values on the U.S." The reverse, of course, is perfectly fine.