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Editorial: Legalize Internet poker

6 Jul 2015

The politics of prohibition reared its ugly head again last month when legislation was introduced to ban all Internet gambling, including the fledgling intrastate Web poker industry that exists in Nevada.

The bill from U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is a clear play to boost the chances of his long-shot presidential campaign. Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson, a Republican Party mega-donor, happens to oppose Internet gambling, including poker.

Web poker was played all over the country, for real money, before sites were shut down in 2011 by the Justice Department under a flawed interpretation of the Wire Act. Later that year, the Justice Department clarified its opinion by ruling that Internet poker was fine provided games didn’t cross state lines. In 2013, the Nevada Legislature legalized Internet poker with the hope that the federal ban eventually would be lifted, positioning the state and its industry-leading regulatory structure to make Nevada a Web poker hub. With a very limited player pool, it’s been exceptionally slow going.

The federal restrictions, like all bans, aren’t working. Americans continue to play cards on unregulated, off-shore poker websites. The idea that millions of card-playing citizens must be protected from themselves, when card games play out in casinos and living rooms across the country nightly, is silly.

The far better approach is Rep. Joe Barton’s bill to legalize Internet poker in states that want it “under one federal standard that protects the integrity of the game and the financial interests of players,” the Texas Republican said. That bill also was introduced last month.

Enough with the bans, Washington. In the spirit of the July Fourth holiday, how about making us a little more free, instead?

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