Legalizing That Which You Can't Prevent

Christopher Beam defends Reid's bill to legalize online poker. Given the gambling money behind Reid's re-election, the bill smells like a quid pro quo. But, as Beam points out, legalizing online gambling may make sense regardless:

Let's start with the most obvious reason to permit online poker: It happens anyway. An estimated 7 million Americans already log on to poker sites every month, according to one study. But the sites they visit operate outside the purview of U.S. law because they're located offshore. That means players aren't protected from fraud or cheating. If they get fleeced by another player, their only recourse is to complain to the site. Gambling sites like Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker are self-policing. If someone's perpetrating a fraud scheme, it's up to the sites to punish them. They usually doafter all, they want to protect their reputationsbut it's not a foolproof system. When an employee at a site called Absolute Poker allegedly cracked the system and looked at everyone's cards, he was caught, but the money he won by cheating wasn't recouped. If one of the poker companies disappeared tomorrow and took all its customers' money with it, they'd have no recourse.

Reid's bill would bring all this activity under the regulatory umbrella: Set up a licensing system, create standards for who can play, and enforce the rules.