Science & Technology

Republicans Can't Resist the Urge to Condemn Online Gambling


A plank supporting the prohibition of online gambling, briefly removed from the Republican platform at the behest of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), has been restored to placate social conservatives. The plank, which appeared in the 2000 and 2004 GOP platforms, reads:

Millions of Americans suffer from problem or pathological gambling that can destroy families. We support legislation prohibiting gambling over the Internet or in student athletics by student athletes who are participating in competitive sports.

The second sentence is inartfully phrased, but I'm assuming Republicans don't want to allow online gambling by everyone who is not involved in college sports. Since Congress has never explicitly banned online gambling (although it did prohibit the processing of payments for forms of gambling that were already illegal), this plank goes beyond supporting the status quo. On its face, it calls for a blanket ban that would criminalize the conduct of millions of Americans who use the Internet to play poker, bet on sports, or place other kinds of wagers. Professional poker player Greg Raymer asks: 

Is the Republican Party no longer the party of personal freedom and individual responsibility? Why has this party, that used to protect my rights, now become the party that wants to create a Nanny-state?

The Democratic Party platform is silent on the subject of gambling. Poker News notes that the PPA's own chairman, former New York Sen. Al D'Amato, has endorsed the Republican nominee, while former Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa), co-author of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, is backing Barack Obama.

I chronicled the federal crackdown on online gambling in the June issue of reason. In a 2007 column, I contemplated the paternalistic proclivities of both parties.