Republican Party Continues to Disappoint

The Republican National Convention is in full swing in Tampa, Florida and as one would expect, the rhetoric is flowing, the conventioneers are chanting catch phrases, and American flags are waving. Coinciding with the GOP festival was the release of the official party platform. It is a lengthy document, spanning 50 pages, and included in one small section on page 32 is a call to stop online gambling once and for all.

The simple, two sentence passage that falls under the heading “Making the Internet Family-Friendly” invokes conservative moralism disguised as the desire to protect people from themselves:

Millions of Americans suffer from problem or pathological gambling that can destroy families. We support the prohibition of gambling over the Internet and call for reversal of the Justice Department’s decision distorting the formerly accepted meaning of the Wire Act that could open the door to Internet betting.

The next and final paragraph of the section plays the “won’t anyone think of the children?” card, urging vigilance against child pornography, child predators, and human trafficking. Naturally, online gambling, which obviously includes poker, is a comparable horror.

For those not familiar with the Wire Act that was mentioned above, it was a law passed in 1961 that, in a nutshell, prohibited sports betting over telephone lines. Unfortunately, over the last several years, the Department of Justice has used that law as the basis for attacks on internet poker. In December, the DoJ reversed course, stating that the Wire Act applied only to sports betting and did not explicitly make online poker or other gambling illegal. In the decision, the DoJ said that this new stance, “differs from the department’s previous interpretation of the Wire Act, (but) it reflects the department’s position in Congressional testimony at the time the Wire Act was passed in 1961.”

The Republican Party Platform Committee seems to believe that a formerly faulty opinion was iron-clad law and the DoJ’s alteration of its stance is not simply a decision to correctly interpret the law, but rather the “distorting” of a flawed “accepted meaning.”

After all, if something is “accepted,” it is right. Right?

In a statement, Rich Muny, VP of Player Relations for the Poker Players Alliance, said, “It is unfortunate that the authors of the plank are at odds with many House Republicans who are leading the charge for licensed and regulated online poker, but it is even worse that they are so out of touch with the actual voters.”

One such House Republican is Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX), sponsor of HR 2366, the Internet Gambling Prohibition, Poker Consumer Protection, and Strengthening UIGEA Act. The Act would establish a framework for both the regulation of online poker and the licensing of approved poker operators. It would apply to poker only, not other games like slots and roulette in which players compete against the casino. Poker is different from those sorts of games in that it pits player against player in a game of skill. Barton’s bill would allow states to opt out.

It is a shame that a political party that hails entrepreneurs as heroes for their willingness to take risks in order to improve their standing in life, that champions job creation, and that trumpets “FREEDOM” from mountaintops would officially insert a plank into its platform that actively seeks to counteract all of these things. I suppose the Republican Party does really want us to have freedom, but only if it is on its terms.

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