Church of Twain and Online Poker Probe: Crackdown or shakedown?

 With federal agents cracking down on online poker Web sites, and
members of Congress attempting to legalize aspects of Internet
gambling, you couldn’t be blamed for being a little confused on this
subject. (Denis Campbell discusses this subject at

  The law enforcement interest in online gambling is nothing new. The
Internet is an untaxed frontier, and there have been enough scandals
attached to online sports betting and offshore casino sites to warrant
some scrutiny. But to what end?

  Haven’t we seen this movie before?

  It features dedicated peacekeepers and prohibitionists, and equally
dedicated gambling promoters and their endless legion of customers. I
can’t remember how it ends.

  Oh, yes. Now it’s coming back to me. Las Vegas. It ends with
legalization, taxation, a modicum of regulation, expansion,
incorporation, corruption, recapitalization, etc., etc.

  If the public wants this badly enough, and the promoters push hard
enough in the right political places, then Internet gambling – despite
its substantial downside for the public – will finds its way in the
world. First it will basically be decriminalized so law enforcement
isn’t compelled to waste its time chasing after scofflaws. Then it
will be legalized in the name of taxation and, as likely, helping
little children with their schoolbooks.

  Children and their schoolbooks. It gets them every time.
  Before all that takes place, I am placing this wager: A major public
official will lose his office due to corruption related to Internet
gambling. Bank on it.

  And soon, is my guess.

  Meanwhile, St. Mark of Missouri had a few words to say about poker.

  Twain wrote: “There are few things that are so unpardonably
neglected in our country as poker. The upper class knows very little
about it. Now and then you find ambassadors who have sort of a general
knowledge of the game, but the ignorance of the people is fearful.
Why, I have known clergymen, good men, kind-hearted, liberal, sincere,
and all that, who did not know the meaning of a ‘flush.’ It is enough
to make one ashamed of one’s species.”

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