Last December the US Justice Department said in response to inquiries from Illinois and New York that sports betting is the only form of internet gambling prohibited by the wire act of 1961. Both states had asked about the legality of selling lottery tickets on the internet. The ruling prompted several states to introduce legislation that would legalize intrastate internet gambling. Last week Nevada became the first state to award internet gambling licenses. At present most experts believe that legalization will take place on a state by state basis. There have been several attempts in congress to legalize internet poker but so far all have been unsuccessful.
Not everyone is happy with last December’s ruling. Anti-gambling extremist groups have come out of the woodwork in 13 states to oppose legal internet gambling. The groups are asking congress to strengthen the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act “to ensure its clear intent that the Internet not become a giant online casino.” The anti –gambling groups are from Wisconsin, Kentucky, Louisiana, North and South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Hawaii, Georgia and Tennessee.
Last May several national ‘family’ groups expressed concerns about internet gambling. Kent Ostrander, founder of The ‘Family Foundation’ of Kentucky stated “The bottom line is we are The Family Foundation and expansion of gambling through casinos or online is targeting one group only: moms and dads. It’s an effort to separate a family from its assets. The family is the building block of any society, and yet it is the most vulnerable institution in that society.” Ostrander noted that in Kentucky there is a move towards adding slot machines and casino-style gambling to racetracks. Ostrander said that the profits generated by gambling will be offset by the societal costs of expanded gambling. Ostrander made the dire prediction that “We are going to find ourselves with more broken homes and families than we can afford.”
The anti-gambling groups sent letters to congressional leaders asking them to strengthen the Internet Gambling. They trotted out the old “it’s for the children” argument and said in the letter “We must protect our children and families from the destruction of safeguards Congress has previously established.” The letter was signed by various extremist groups including The Family Foundation of Kentucky; Louisiana Family Forum Action; the North Carolina Family Policy Council; the Ohio-based Citizens for Community Values Action; the Pennsylvania Family Council; the Palmetto Family Council in South Carolina; the Missouri Family Policy Council; the Massachusetts Family Institute; the Minnesota Family Council & Institute; the Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, representing 38 organizations; the Georgia Family Council, and Family Action of Tennessee.
Despite the opposition from anti-gambling extremists states are moving ahead with plans to offer residents safe and legal intrastate gambling. Nevada has already issued two internet gambling licenses and in New Jersey legalization will probably take place this year. Hopefully national legalization will take place sometime next year and players will have the right to spend their hard earned money as they please without interference from extremist groups.