Nanny State

The Sort of Pro-Gambling Activist Who Makes Me Want To Puke, Frankly


The AP, via the Cincinnati Enquirer, reports on the pro-poker actvities of law professor Charles Nesson, who "rose to fame by defending Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked to the media the 'Pentagon Papers,' secret documents that indicated the government deceived the public about whether the Vietnam War could be won."

Nesson wants to loosen Massachusetts' limits on small-scale poker tournaments. He's still angry that an annual student-run charity tournament was canceled last spring because organizers did not know they needed a permit.

He's also lobbying Congress to overturn or amend a U.S. law that effectively bans online gambling…

Nesson said the Poker Players Alliance, a 2-year-old lobbying group that claims to represent 809,000 poker enthusiasts nationwide and gets funding from commercial gambling companies, provided $10,000 to support a seminar last spring where he, students, academics, pros and lobbyists discussed strategies….

Nesson and [student activist Andrew] Woods were on Capitol Hill last week, joining the alliance in pressing Congress to consider several new bills that would exempt poker from the Internet gambling law. The alliance estimates there are between 15 million and 23 million U.S. Internet poker players.

So far, so good. So far, so great, as a matter of fact. But Nesson, whose exploits also inspired the dubious book and movie A Civil Action, is at least publicly in favor of gambling because it's good for you. It's the Highlights for Children ("Fun with a Purpose") approach to vice:

"Obviously the distinction is that in games of chance, you're not using your brain," he said. "You may be entertaining yourself but you're not really engaging in a developmental activity, whereas (in) games of skill you develop skill. You learn to be smart, you learn to win."

Ugh. Pinning any sort of vice activity–whether drugs, video games, or poker–to its uplift potential is not just generally a losing strategy but offensive to the intelligence of everyone involved. Which isn't to say that some bad things don't make you smarter. But reducing every activity to an instrument of uplift (or better SAT scores or what have you) just makes me cringe. And, in a world in which poker is massive and above-board business with tons of mags and even TV shows dedicated to it, this comment from student Woods is simply ridiculous:

"I'd like to be able to talk about poker and not have eyebrows raised," said Woods.

I've yet to encounter anybody who treats poker as the equivalent, say, of snorting meth. Still, to paraphrase the immortal Bachman Turner Overdrive, when it comes to lifting idiotic bans on non-violent, consensual "crimes," all allies are good allies and you take what you can get (baby), you take what you can get.

Full AP article here.

reason on "how legalized gambling moved from the Strip to Main Street."

and on the outrageous and criminal treatment of the heads of fully legal online services.

and on gambling more generally.