Rep. Jim Leach is getting his internet gambling law. (See Sept. 20 post.) The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was tacked onto the Port Security Improvement Act, which the Senate passed late Friday. The bill now goes to President Bush, who is expected to sign it into law this week.
Although I am not a gambler and I feel for people who struggle with gambling additions, I really wonder whether this is the right approach. Internet gambling is a problem worthy of congressional scrutiny, but does the answer really necessitate the involvement of the banking industry and the credit card companies? I don’t think so.
Internet gambling currently is illegal but since most of the gambling web sites operate in other countries, the prohibition is nearly impossible to enforce. The Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury already have a comprehensive regulatory enforcement mechanism in place for the banking industry, so Rep. Leach proposed to tap into that mechanism to mitigate internet gambling. Good intentions not withstanding, going after the credit card processors does not solve the problem. Private industry facilitating the payments system shouldn’t be saddled with the cost of Congress’s attempt to resolve yet another social problem.
It is true that many of the credit card companies and big banks favor the new gambling enforcement rules. Those companies, however, would be far better off implementing the bill’s provisions voluntarily rather than under the threat of fines and incarceration. In fact, banks and credit card companies build a world of good will when they take on serious social ills on their own.
The thing about money is there will always be people who choose to spend it foolishly, whether it be on gambling, pornography, recreational drugs or other nonsense. As people of goodwill, we have an obligation to help others make wise decisions about living well. That is a responsibility that falls on all of us, not just those who work in the credit card industry.
tMichaelB is the web site for Tom Bengtson, who writes about business, religion, family and politics.
Monday, October 02, 2006
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