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AN AGGIE LINE: USU cheerleaders perform during the Aggies' final exhibition game. It's time to cheer for basketball. / Photo by Brianna Mortensen

Today's word on journalism

Friday, November 10, 2006

Q&A with Ed Bradley:

Q: What single issue should be covered more at CBS News?
A: Foreign news.

Q: Have you ever been assigned a story you objected to? How did you deal with it?
A: When I first started in New York at WCBS radio, the assignment editor automatically assigned any story that had a minority in it to me. I objected to being typecast and told him if I didn't get a variety of stories -- as other reporters did -- then I would take it up with the news director.

Q: If you were not in news, what would you be doing?
A: If I had the talent, I'd play bass guitar and sing in a kicking band.

--Ed Bradley, reporter, "60 Minutes," died yesterday of leukemia at age 65 (2006)

Banning online poker is a bad idea

By Jake Williams

October 18, 2006 | Government officials aren't always the most informed individuals, and sometimes they say or do things that just don't make sense.

One great example is from Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who heads the Senate Commerce Committee that regulates Internet commerce. He said, "The Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes." And later: "Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it (Tuesday). Why?"

Jon Stewart knows why. "Maybe it's because you don't seem to know jack-shit about computers or the Internet. But that's OK. You're just the guy in charge of regulating it."

Another example, one that has gone virtually unacknowledged by mainstream America, is the recent government attack on Internet gambling. The Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act, passed by the U.S. Senate Sept. 30, is Title VIIII of the entirely unrelated Safe Port Act, which deals with port security. According to Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), the gambling act was attached to the Safe Port Act such that nobody on the Senate-House Conference Committee saw the final language before it was passed. The act is a fairly involved piece of legislation, but its goal is to end online gambling in America by prohibiting money transfers to the websites that allow it.

The act only affects poker for profit, not playing for fun. It holds not only the gamblers responsible for their actions, but also places liability on financial institutions that process their deposits and withdrawals. Without these institutions' involvement, the multibillion dollar industry is expected to go bust. Indeed, several online poker sites have already suspended play.

Poker websites are the primary target of this legislation for playing a major role in this decade's poker explosion. The Poker Players Alliance estimates that 70 million Americans are now gaming. Prior to the Internet, playing required either a poker night with friends or a trip to Las Vegas, but now players can just jump online and start playing within seconds. This convenience in playing has helped increase volume in other areas, including television coverage and offline play. Poker has become the third most-watched sporting event in America (behind auto racing and football) and participation in the World Series of Poker mushroomed from roughly 5,000 entrants in 2000 to 23,000 entrants just five years later.

The act's supporters believe gambling has significant adverse effects, most dramatically Senator Bill Frist's (R-Tenn.) suggestion that terrorists use gambling sites to launder money, and feel Americans would be better off without corrupting and bankrupting games of chance. They argue poker players become deceptive and financially irresponsible, and that the long hours spent playing are a case of negligence toward players' families.

Opponents point out the numerous good aspects of poker, including how poker is an important part of the nation's economy. Professional poker players, just like other professionals, provide for their families while paying income tax on their earnings. Many Americans work long hours to provide for their families, but poker players have the unwarranted image of negligence if gambling is what puts food on their tables. They point out that Frist offers no proof for his terrorism claim, and find his scare tactic reminiscent of 1950's Senator Joseph McCarthy's communism ploy. Opponents also believe Americans should have the freedom to seek entertainment however they want, because America was founded on the principle that people are sufficiently mature to make responsible decisions. Gamblers find claims of deception ironic, coming from the same politicians that attached a gambling bill to the Safe Port Act.

Online gambling certainly has issues to address, but prohibition is only one possible solution. Judy Xanthopoulos, who holds a Ph.D. in economics and conducted a study on Internet poker, concludes that America is missing an opportunity to raise vast federal and state revenues. She estimates around $3 billion could be raised if America properly regulated the industry. That's right, $3 billion. Considering the Congressional Budget Office announced that the federal deficit stands at $250 billion, regulation of online poker could pay off just over one percent of our current fiscal deficit.

America should exploit poker's popularity. Doing so would help fund education, welfare, and other essential programs (like bomb-building) and is consistent with global trends. Eighty countries regulate Internet poker, most notably the United Kingdom, which passed legislation in 2005. America could follow suit by either repealing the act or amending it to allow for online gambling. The latter is more likely because loopholes already exist for wagering on horseracing, intrastate lotteries, and fantasy sports.

Legislators won't repeal or amend the act unless they feel the public disagrees with it, so get involved if you think your freedoms are being constrained. Only action will cause a reaction. Call or write your congressmen or join an organization dedicated to lobbying the issue in Washington. One such group, the Poker Players Alliance, already has 75,000 members.

Both these methods of involvement are consistent with our right to petition legislators as guaranteed by the United States Constitution. At least our government got that bill right.


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