Despite restrictions, US punters spent $8 billion online in 2009
The widely read U.S. IT publication Network World took up the legalisation of online gambling story this week, recapping on the efforts of Congressman Barney Frank to overturn the UIGEA and set up a regulatory and taxation regime for the industry in America.
Network World asked the rhetorical question "why would legalizing online gambling be a good thing?" and provides the answer: "Because the public wants it! We know this because U.S. citizens spent an estimated $8 billion last year betting online."
Author Mark Gibbs does some simple arithmetic based on a proposition that each online gambler spends a moderate $500 a year, and comes up with 16 million players or about 1 in every 4 US punters over the age of 21 years.
The author also draws attention to an online poll by US News and World Report, in which more than 91 percent of respondents answered "Yes" to the question "Should Online Gambling Be Legalized?"
Gibbs goes on to examine the standpoints of opponents and supporters of legalised online gambling before observing that despite opposition in some political quarters, there has been no suggestions in the USA that state lotteries or tribal gambling be curtailed or outlawed.
He attributes this to the big money involved, which he quotes as $28 billion annually (2008 numbers) in tribal gambling, and over $75 billion in state lotteries, of which some $18 billion flows into state coffers (again, 2008 stats).
He then compares this with the potential tax revenues from legalised online gambling, quoting a Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that Congressman Frank's proposed legislation would generate nearly $42 billion of tax revenues over the next 10 years.
The author concludes: "I'm not against gambling. I can't find any reasonable moral or ethical grounds to oppose it and, as someone once said, gambling is a tax on people who are bad at math. In fact, I find it surprising that in the land of the brave and the home of the free anyone would want to tell you what you can and can't do with your money.
"After all, if it's good enough for the states and good enough for Indian tribes, then why wouldn't it be good enough for Internet users?"
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