Online poker should be legal in the US

By and

Some people think that online poker is addictive and should be illegal.

Well, I’m addicted to basketball. It would be nice if I had a normal addiction to, say, crack or sex-there are focus groups for that-but being addicted to basketball just makes me a loser.

OK, so I’m not addicted-not exactly. Just because someone says he or she is addicted to basketball doesn’t make it so; and just because someone says he or she is addicted to poker doesn’t make that so, either.

It has not been proven that poker is addictive; and even if it were addictive, it shouldn’t be made illegal. According to nationally certified counselor John Carlisle, “while about 85 percent of all Americans have gambled at some time in their lives, only around 2 percent of individuals actually show signs of problematic gambling?I find that the huge majority of us are much more ‘addicted’ to winning than we are poker.”

Some scientists claim that poker “addicts” experience elevated levels of dopamine, and that this unnatural rise in dopamine is indicative of their addiction. But considering that dopamine regulates mood, elevated levels of dopamine may simply mean that someone is experiencing pleasure. If you measured my levels of dopamine while playing basketball, they would probably rise too. That hardly means that I’m addicted.

I’m not saying that it’s impossible to become addicted to poker-it’s just that the scientific evidence regarding poker-addiction is sketchy at best, and it affects only a tiny portion of those who have played.

Other critics contend that poker should be banned because it is immoral. To prove that something is immoral, you have to prove that it does more harm to human beings than good. It’s true that some people have been burned by poker, but weighed against a whole horde of people who have enjoyed it without great detriment, poker has probably done more good than harm.

Opponents also believe that many people have wasted a good deal of time playing poker, but those poker players haven’t really wasted their time-they’ve merely spent it. If poker is immoral because people have spent time playing it without being industrially productive, then TV is immoral. So is reading, so is going to church and many, many other things.

Finally, some people think poker is all luck. Sure, you don’t get to pick the cards you get, but you do get to choose 100 percent of your actions.

I’ve been playing poker for several years now, and I’ve never felt like I wasn’t in total control. Sure, I’ve lost hands that I was favored to win, but those few losses were trumped by superior play. Every time I’ve lost money or made an early exit at a tournament, it was primarily because of my own mistakes, and not the cards. There are two types of poker players: those who win, and those who blame their losses on the cards.

Still, I don’t go to Vegas. Why? The streets of Vegas are littered with pornography, and every taxicab features a picture of a nude woman advertising a strip joint. The sexual objectification of women, streets cluttered with drivers who drink a little too much and other objectionable moral practices are what is wrong with Vegas-not the gaming. Yet in Salt Lake City, strip clubs are legal and gaming is not.

There’s a simple solution to this: allow online gambling. Currently, online gambling is illegal everywhere in the United States, according to the Wire Act. I could be a Vegas resident and it would still be illegal to play online poker.

Consequently, online gaming sites have made more than 10 billion dollars this year, and such profits are tax-exempt.

If online gaming were legal, we could kill two birds with one stone. Poker players could play without the problems associated with casinos, and the government could tax online poker businesses and use the money to pay for public schools or give our soldiers adequate body armor.

Even if online poker really is addictive, people still have a right to play it, and banning online poker is a violation of our right to liberty.

Jeff Fullmer