Legalize It

Online poker, that is. Chris Beam notes that, at the moment, there are minimal safeguards in the game, because most of the companies supporting online poker are off-shore. Then he zeroes in on the negative case:

The simplest argument for online poker is the libertarian one: You should be able to do what you want in your home, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. But critics turn that argument on its head. The fact that online gambling is so accessible, they say, makes people all the more vulnerable. "Online gambling brings casinos into your living room, into schools, into businesses and libraries," says Hills. It's true--increasing access to poker could create new problem gamblers. The Web also lessens the social pressures against gambling, like the shame of losing money or the friend who leans over and tells you it's time to quit. Critics also envision a world in which kids can get ahold of their parents' credit cards and gamble away their life savings. 

But, again--sorry to belabor this--this doesn't describe some freaky future. It describes the status quo. People who want to gamble online can and do without any oversight. If online gambling were regulated, it could have built-in safeguards. A player could set loss limits for himself beforehand, for example. Or sites could monitor betting patterns to detect problem gambling and warn bettors when they appear to be heading off the deep end. (Some sites already have these safeguards--but they're not required.)

Beam is discussing Harry Reid's attempt to legalize online poker--but not all gambling. I'd love to hear someone who opposes this make the case. At the moment I don't see it.