Feds Say: Internet Horse Betting Illegal?

by , Sep 20, 2007 | 11:50 am

Here’s an interesting story on MSNBC — about concerns within the horse racing community about the legality of their favorite pastime. What-the? Here we are in the poker world wishing we could be like the competitive equestrian industry — with a stated exemption from the UIGEA … but apparently the Department of Justice is contending that betting on horses on the internet is still illegal:

The online horse betting industry says the IHA, in effect, amended the Wire Act – the main federal anti-gambling statute – but the justice department has stated publicly that it believes the Wire Act remains paramount and that interstate horse betting online remains illegal. […]

“My gut feeling is that they haven’t tried to prosecute somebody because they don’t want to lose, because then you have case law that says they’re wrong […] And I think they would lose,” says Steven Barham, associate co-ordinator of the race track industry programme at the University of Arizona.

While most industries might be alarmed by a pronouncement by justice officials that it is operating illegally, the leading industry body takes the department’s latest opinion with little more than a shrug. The willingness of established companies to defy the department highlights the industry’s confidence that it has the upper hand in its analysis of the law.

Wow, sounds so much like poker in the “old days.” It also reminds me of 1) the impacts of badly crafted laws, which continue to need to be rewritten; and 2) how important the courts can be in determining who’s interpretation of a bad law matters most.

3 Comments to “Feds Say: Internet Horse Betting Illegal?”

  1. Uncle Ray

    At first I was devastated. Then I realized the “law” is not scaring those running the sites into submission. But this makes it interesting for the We want to be legal poker industry.

    I always wondered how me betting at home through a website that puts the money into a legal off-track betting pool, (in my case a pool run by the state of Oregon) was any different than any other form of gambling that is legal live (as in Vegas) but illegal to bet on the same game in the same casino on line.

    And you can’t bet on another state’s lottery. If you buy a ticket in a multi-state lottery drawing you can’t even cash the ticket in a different state that runs the same game.

    Heck, if I enter a FREE football contest in Vegas at a casino, I have to make my picks in person in the casino even though I can look at my picks on line. I can’t change the picks or anything else.

    The inequity of the rules and their application is amazing, which just goes to show you how ambiguous (did I spell that right?) these laws really are!!

    So, clearly the racing lobby is stronger than the poker lobby right now. It’s your job, all of you, to strengthen the poker lobby, or join forces with a strong lobby like the racing industry, to get, if not preferential treatment, at least equitable treatment.

    Like everything else, money talks. The key to the casino industry busting into territory that was reserved for racing only was showing the states that casinos would bring in even more tax dollars than racing AND create more jobs than racing.

    They turned it into a financial argument instead of a philosophical or moral argument. Finances always win.

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