Internet Gambling and Liberalism

Before he retired US Congressman Barney Frank was a champion of online gambling. Mr. Frank had made several unsuccessful attempts to introduce legislation that would have legalized poker on the internet. He also sought to overturn the ill advised UIGEA passed in 2006 using devious methods. In a recent op-ed piece Frank blasted liberals for their stance on gambling and said “I do not understand why many liberals who favor legalizing marijuana, oppose censorship of hard-core pornography, support the right of terminally ill, pain-wracked people to assisted suicide and pride themselves on their belief in individuals’ rights to govern their own lives become vehement prohibitionists when it comes to gambling.”

Frank correctly points out that the left does not have a monopoly on gambling prohibition and said that the law against internet gambling came from the far right. In 2006 congress passed the anti-gambling bill that was tacked on to a must pass port security bill. The most vocal opponents to the legislation were Frank and libertarian Ron Paul. The bill was the brainchild of Congressman Bill Frist who was planning to run for president and was seeking the approval of far right religious conservatives. The bill had no senate vote and was presented to a late night session of the house with no time for debate.

In fact most members of the House were unaware of the provision’s existence and a later poll showed that the bill would not have passed as a standalone piece of legislation. It should also be noted that Frist also intervened in the Terri Schiavo case in a most disgraceful manner. Backers of internet gambling see it as a privacy and civil rights issue and believe Americans should have the right to spend their money as they see fit. Some liberal backers of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick have roundly criticized his very sensible policy of allowing casinos in the state. Frank says the arguments used against internet gambling “are blatantly inconsistent with liberalism’s overall approach.”

Fortunately the Justice Department has cleared the way for individual states to pass their own online gambling laws. So far three states have legalized online gambling; Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada. Nevada has only legalized poker for now but Delaware and New Jersey plan to offer residents a variety of games including internet bingo and most casino games. In the final paragraph of the op-ed Frank makes the following observation “I believe the fact is that gambling is to some liberals what pornography is to some conservatives: an activity that they find distasteful, and consequently are ready to outlaw the decision by others to pursue it.”