Friday, December 31, 2004

Posted by Johnnymac 10:06 AM
To answer some of the comments below:

- While poker does require a larger level of skill than other gambling games, there is an element of chance that is inherent even in poker that does not reasonably exist in darts or pool or golf. Ergo, poker is considered a gambling game and is illegal in public places, including bars, while these activities are not and the analogy of a poker tournament being "the same thing" as a tournament in one of these other activities does not stand up. It is not the same thing, at all, and the argument is weak. Yes, the structure is similar, but the game is not, and this argument completely misses the point. If you disagree, ask yourself if there ever was a Chris Moneymaker of pool or golf. Luck goes a lot further in poker than in these other actvities. It is not the same thing.

- Argue first why poker should be legal in a public place, then you can argue as to why bar tournaments should be allowed. I would venture a guess that public places require government regulation while private places do not, and by their nature of requiring a good deal less skill than do pool or darts, gambling games need a stricter form of regulation (eg the Nevada Gaming Commission) than do pool tables or dart boards. It is easier to catch a cheater at pool than at cards. This is why poker is legal in your home and not at the Yorkshire pub, because, theoretically, your friends won't cheat you and you don't need the government to make sure of that.

- As far as the argument that poor people will "just waste their money anyway" if they don't have the option of playing the lottery or slot machines, I cannot offer any evidence to disagree. But I don't need any evidence because my argument does not rely on the availability of these funds or the willingness of the players to give their money away. Whether or not a person engages in self-destructive behavior is his own business and is protected by one's right to privacy and is likely not affected by the existence of a government-sponsored gambling. My argument is simply that the government should not be in the business of encouraging destructive behavior and as a society we should use the power of our government to find ways to educate or encourage citizens on avoiding destructive behaviors rather than encouraging these people to waste their money and pushing to the front of the line to take it. This is why I am not necessarily a pure libertarian, because I don't think the government should be entirely value-neutral.

- Let's all admit that poker is indeed legal, even in Texas. I think the main thing that people are clamoring for is increasing the availability of games; the problem is that the only legal games are private non-profit affairs and that aren't easily organized at a moment's notice, and it's the type of games that are always available that are illegal and thus that people are clamoring to legalize.

- Now as far getting making more legal games available, I think there is a case to be made for somehow making games a little more public, or otherwise available, without criminalizing them. For instance, I think that the case currently in front of the Supreme Court about the legality of interstate wine sales, Swedenburg v. Kelly, could have a lot to do with the legality of online gambling because any state objection based on local gambling laws would be quite diminished if it could be decided that private economic transactions across state lines are not strictly subject to local laws, although I will admit that state laws aren't the only obstacle to truly legal online gambling (For example there are federal laws governing bookmaking and gambling using interstate communications wires.) Eventually, however, online poker in one's own home could thus be defined as just another economic transaction taking place beyond the reach of local regulators. Similarly, I think a slight adjustment to the current gambling laws would enable legal private poker clubs to exist, provided those clubs were truly private and selective within whatever scope the updated law would dictate. I would like to flesh this out further, but I just don't have time right now.

Have a happy new year!

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