No Strike!? You’re Out – Online Wagering Is Your Right.

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MicroaggressionNoun

  1. A comment or action that is subtly and often unintentionally hostile or demeaning to a member of a minority or marginalized group

It was with much gusto that I discovered “Strike! Real Money Bowling” over the Holidays in Boston. An iOS app that allows the user to play an online bowling game for cash. I deposited 10 dollars and had a blast. Then I returned to Chicago, Illinois.

“Real Money is Not Allowed in Your Area,” said the app. Excuse me? Who would think this game, with its tiny stakes and skill-based gameplay, could be a danger to the American populous? The Government, of course. After much research, I discovered their rationale.

Just last year, Senator Lindsay Graham was rallying to ban all online gambling, allegedly at the behest of wealthy donors from Las Vegas who believe their profits would dwindle if online gambling was officially legalized. 

This should offend you. Death of liberty comes via a thousand tiny cuts; micro-aggressions. It all comes down to a fundamental question: Is it the government’s responsibility to protect us from ourselves?

It shouldn’t be. But bit by bit, they seem to think otherwise.

Lets back up a decade. The online poker boom. A wondrous occasion to have disposable income and disposable time and a star in your eye. I credit the online Poker Boom with my first group of friends outside of school. I credit the online Poker Boom with teaching me the nuance of odds and how to ‘read’ people. I credit the online Poker boom for quite a lot, and I’m not alone.

So, of course, the Government shut it down like it was late for supper, freezing millions of dollars of assets in the process, via a modification to a bill seemingly everyone forgot to read. 

The crux of that national bill is that it’s about games of chance. And despite the lobbying of poker players and the websites they played on, a lot of poker is left to chance. So yes, it was ‘gambling’ and so the boom ended.

But why is the government anti-online-gambling in the first place? Tax it, regulate it, make a boat load of money, and you may even create jobs while you’re at it.

It’s a puritanical thing. Here’s a hilarious video explaining the problem by the “Stop Online Gambling” coalition. The basis? Online gambling isn’t ‘the same’ as going to a casino and greatly increases the risk of problem gambling resulting in the loss of funds for American citizens.

As we all know, making something illegal makes it impossible to become addicted. It’s how we stopped the opioid and methamphetamine crisis, after all.

Oh, wait.

For the record, Real Money Bowling is not chance-based gambling. It’s based entirely on the flip of my thumb and the spin of the ball versus the same flip and spin of my online opponent. It is based on ability. Most competitive video games are games of skill. That’s why websites like Gamer Saloon can provide a platform for online game wagering – and federally, at least, be protected.

In the state of Illinois, however, even games of skill are considered gambling, So we can’t wager on internet chess, checkers, scrabble, trivia, and yes, bowling. But somehow I am allowed to gamble on presidential politics and US Elections here? Weird.

“That which is denied becomes that which is most desired, and that which is hidden becomes that which is most interesting. Consequently, a  great deal of time and energy is spent trying to get at what is being kept from you.”
– John Denver

There are several, really clever, ways to gamble online. Some sites offer a subscription service that offers you a certain amount of tournaments. Those tournaments give you points, and at the end of the month, the points are given a monetary value. Others have you buy a special voucher via credit card, then have you enter in that voucher number into the online website. Thus you are not depositing via your American money, but rather via a locationally nebulous voucher. A ton of folks use Bitcoin too.

You can actually deposit via credit card on betonline.com and America’s Card Room via some very creative routing which will result in a call from your bank asking what the hell you’re doing. Whatever you do, don’t play in the pacific northwest – online Poker is a Class C felony in Washington State. 

These sorts of workarounds are international, too. In Japan, you cannot play Pachinko for money. Instead, you turn your winnings into special tokens that you then use in a trade with a store down the street that will give you cash for the token.

And a fun one: It’s legal to hire a prostitute if you’re recording her, thus making her an adult performer.

The loopholes and workarounds are numerous because it is the will of the people, and people get what they want if they want it bad enough. I write for this website – The Liberty Conservative – for a couple of reasons. They have an audience, and so far, they’ll let me say whatever I want and support me in doing so. For example, I think President Obama is a pretty good guy.

But I’m on this website because I’m liberty minded and believe that the government is bad at most of what it attempts to do, and makes big choices for the wrong reasons in the name of morality, special interest, or misinformation – often disregarding the notion of personal responsibility and liberty – which is the point of the whole darn country, by the way.

I say this while having the personal responsibility of a meerkat and warthog. I’m in student loan debt, am bad at cleaning and bills, smoke too much marijuana, and have saved exactly 60 cents for a rainy day or medical calamity.

But that is on me. I signed up for those student loans. I never bothered to learn personal finance, and marijuana is too expensive to save actual money. What I don’t do is blame the banks for my loan, or the schools for my lack of financial education.

Our lives would be easy if we were told what to eat, drink, when to sleep, what to like, given a single insurance plan we were forced to opt into, placed into a job that suited us based on some algorithm, and had a marriage arranged for us at the age of 9. But that’s not life. That’s not freedom.

I’d rather have the option to blow every single penny I’ve earned on poker, blow it up my nose, or take a heroic dose of LSD than to be told something, anything is ‘for my own good’.

I’m also not stupid. Yes, if you drink and drive the government should be able to take your license away forever to protect you from yourself and others. If you rack up 100k in credit card debt and file bankruptcy, perhaps you shouldn’t be allowed a line of credit for a long, long time. If you commit a violent crime, you should be put someplace where you can’t harm others.

But somehow, 20 dollars into a bowling game, or 100 bucks in online poker, or 50 bucks on the Superbowl, seems a bit too personal and intimate. Just like being told marriage is between a man and a woman. Just like being told if you’re pro-life you’re somehow anti-woman, and not pro-baby. Just like being shamed into drinking or eating less sugar.

Even if you’re inclined to believe, as I am, that human nature is often times contradictory and self-destructive, it is our right to self-destruct, and being in government doesn’t make you any more perfect or special or sane – it just means you’re rich.

We cannot let the government dictate our lives like this. Maybe you don’t like poker. Maybe online pornography is your thing. Maybe it’s downloading massive amounts of data. If we do not take the government to task for every single law that they make to protect us from ourselves, well, soon we’ll have nothing left for ourselves, will we?

The worst part of this? I’m out twenty bucks.

Paul Meekin is a writer, editor, and critic of all things media. He'd prefer the government stay out of his wallet and out of his entertainment. He can be reached at @MeekinOnMovies for bookings and inquiries.