Anyone who has done any internet gambling over the past 10 years knows that there exists a murky gray area, somewhere between legal and illegal, when it comes to online gambling sites, especially those operating outside the U.S. but catering to U.S. customers.
Bodog.com, started in 2005, was one of those sites. Today, the Department of Homeland Security in its infinite wisdom and seemingly unchecked power, decided to seize the Bodog.com domain name and indict four Canadians for illegal gambling that generated more than $100 million in winnings.
Federal prosecutors in Baltimore unsealed an indictment against Calvin Ayre (Bodog.com owner/founder) and 3 associates, accusing them of operating an illegal gambling business and conspiring to commit money laundering. Prosecutors made their move based on the argument that sports gambling is illegal in Maryland. They alleged the company advertised to attract gamblers to the website and paid out at least $100 million in winnings to gamblers in Maryland and elsewhere from 2005 to 2012. Curiously, Bodog earlier this year transferred its site to Bovada.lv, which remained active as of this writing.
This follows last year’s seizure (by the FBI) of online poker sites Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker, and PokerStars.
This is yet another sad day in the long history of U.S. citizens being prevented, by their own government, from partaking in a pastime which they enjoy and which they fund using their own hard earned money. The government says they are seizing these “illegal” operations to protect people from the ills that result from gambling on the internet. What you’ll never hear from them, though, is that the real reason is that there is no ability for them to squeeze tax dollars out of these sites because of where the sites are based (outside U.S. borders).
Is the government shutting down the Bellagio or Aria in Vegas? No way! Are they shutting down convenience stores because they sell lottery tickets? Of course not! Why not you ask? Well, because those are well established, steady streams of tax revenue. If people go broke at the blackjack tables or they spend their paycheck on scratch offs, the government couldn't care less because the tax money is rolling in. However, if someone loses their shirt playing online poker, well, that’s an absolute tragedy that the government must prevent from happening, right? Give me a break.
Instead of spending valuable time and resources chasing down, investigating, and shuttering existing online sites, why not legalize it, establish it, regulate it, and tax it? It makes perfect sense for all involved. The gamblers get to gamble and the government gets their cut. We can only hope.