Police State Thieves, The U.S. Government Gambling Monopoly
Apr 20, 2011
On April 15, the federal government busted online poker behemoths Pokerstars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker. The Department of Justice issued a 57-page indictment against the owners, accusing them of such crimes as “Operation of an Illegal Gambling Business.” The FBI also seized their domains.
US players are now restricted from playing on the two largest US online poker sites, Pokerstars and Full Tilt, with the status of many millions of dollars in online poker balances in limbo. Even for sites allowing players to withdraw this money, many worry it will be seized or indefinitely delayed if cashed out.
There is widespread outrage within the poker community concerning these events, among both professional and recreational players, as well as those in the extensive poker media and side businesses. After all, online poker is a voluntary activity. Participants choose to devote their own time and risk their own money when playing, and willingly pay the house rake for this privilege. So how do we understand the government’s aggressive actions in this case?
By definition, the US government has a monopoly on the use of force in the US. They may therefore claim a monopoly on any industry they wish, such as protection or the sale of alcohol. For instance there are government-run liquor stores. For private restaurants and businesses wishing to sell alcohol, however, the only option is expensive licensing for the privilege of competing with the government. If you don’t make the right payoff to get one of these licenses, you’re running an illegal operation and risk being shut down.