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Florida Sociologist Argues that Lawmakers Restrict the Rights of Online Gamblers


by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor
April 17, 2009

               According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the state Legislature has initiated talks about expanding gambling in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. While online casino gambling advocates have consistently argued that the industry could bring U.S. states billions in tax revenue each year, the state has argued for more land-based casino gambling and less online casino gambling.

                A speaker at a Florida anti-gambling rally this week said that he would prefer a law against online gambling rather than a law that would allow it while the state argues for more physical casinos to be built.

                Sociologist Harold Peterson made a statement against the anti-gambling rally, claiming that many U.S. citizens have the attitude that laws in the country either permit or forbid activities, such as gambling online. Peterson notes that the rally showed assumptions about freedom and legislation that U.S. residents did not always have.

                “The popularly held belief in the U.S. that laws are made to both allow and deny privileges is a very recent state of mind. The populace has accepted it because it is numb with an overwhelming flow of new law by legislators who feel that if they aren’t churning out volumes of regulations, they aren’t doing their jobs,” said Peterson. “But freedom and liberty mean unbound by the restraint of law, able to choose whatever path one desires. The idealized version of the US as ‘the land of the free’ can only exist when lawmakers put harsh limits upon themselves, only passing such measures as those that are virtually universally demanded.”

                Peterson continued to explain that the United States does not, in fact, prohibit any form of online casino gambling outside of the state of Washington, but rather that the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) applies to the financial transactions of such wagers. Still, he notes that citizens are not aware of the legal statues of online casino gambling. Legislators do not have to pass a law that allows internet gambling because these activities are not in violation of any U.S. law.

                “Casino smoking is another example of mistaken assumptions. Some feel the law is changing in many states, from laws permitting smoking to laws denying that right. But the actual change is from no law, which means everyone is free and at liberty to enjoy his own decision, to a law constricting behavior.”

                While the state of Florida has openly opposed an American’s right to gamble online, it also has begun to push for more land-based casino gambling - harboring the same consequences that the U.S. has attempted to protect its citizens from in banning online gambling transactions. The State Senate has proposed that the Seminole Tribe’s seven casinos in the state be permitted to add craps and roulette to their gaming roster, putting them on par with Las Vegas casinos and raising $400 million annually for Florida.

                Peterson continued to say that the Constitution is only a few pages long, and that the laws passed that restrict citizens’ rights consist of an eight-hundred page long list.

                “Every word entered into federal and state statutes represents a tiny piece of lost freedom, of liberty surrendered. The people need to be aware of this, and demand that each act be passed only because it is essential, that the cost paid in infringement on freedom be worth whatever gains the bill grants,” Peterson concluded.