Like Prohibition-era Oklahomans who were said to stagger to the polls to vote dry, America these days is a gambling-mad country happy to elect officials who outdo each other in anti-gambling fervor. Perhaps that explains the absence of an outpouring of support here thus far for David Carruthers, the former BetOnSports.com chief executive who was nabbed at the Dallas airport, shackled and menaced with years in prison for running an online gaming company.
If war is the continuation of politics by other means, then prosecution can serve as a continuation of policy by other means. The editors of the reputedly liberal St. Louis Post-Dispatch applauded the crackdown on online betting, sparing no sympathy for the British executive.
“Whatever you think about legalised gambling, and we think it’s a mistake,” they wrote, “it makes no sense to send American gambling revenue overseas via internet gambling sites where it circumvents American taxes.”
It rather calls to mind humorist Dave Barry’s comment on the legal action by American state governments against cigarette makers. “The underlying moral principle of these lawsuits was: ‘You are knowingly selling a product that kills tens of thousands of our citizens each year.
We want a piece of that action!'” In fact, federal law already imposes a special surtax on illegal wagering, whose practitioners are apparently expected to poke their heads above ground long enough to mail a check to tax authorities.
The various land-based casinos, state lotteries, Indian tribes, riverboats and racetracks that constitute America’s vast (and politically savvy) legalised gambling sector are likewise not exactly draining their tear ducts for Mr Carruthers. The press release from federal prosecutors pointedly noted that BetOnSports.com’ activities could “harm legitimate businesses” — that is to say, might offer consumers a preferred alternative to them. So both anti-gambling activists and their gambling-industry opponents have reason to be pleased. Quite a broad political coalition.