What will it take?

Internet gambling is getting bigger and bigger. The NCAA, for example, has learned that, shockingly, people are using the phrase “March Madness” to promote betting on its championship tournament. And the organization is piping hot mad: it’s issued cease and desist orders.

To protect Americans from online gambling, two Congressmen have re-introduced the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act. Ostensibly, they want to protect children “placed in harm’s way.” Seriously. But given the fact that other countries are free to license online betting sites, and it is difficult at best to restrict access to them (at least with things like privacy rights and freedom of information cluttering up the scene), it’s doubtful that Congress can legislate the ability to place bets online away. How could it be done?

Well, this is the approach that China is taking (from China Daily):

China’s Internet media and content providers have pledged to protect cyberspace from pornography, gambling and other “unhealthy content” through self-regulation and legal measures.

The call was made at a regular meeting on Saturday held by the Internet News Service Work Committee under the Internet Society of China (ISC) in Haikou, capital of China’s southernmost island province of Hainan.

“In 2005 alone, we received 127,010 complaints from the public, including 68.2 percent about pornography and 8.15 percent about gambling frauds,” said Li Jiaming of the ISC.

Li said since his center was established on June 10, 2004, it has received 240,000 complaints from the public.

The work committee passed several self-regulation agreements in 2005, pledging to improve the conduct of Internet Industry Participants and promote and ensure the sound development of the Internet industry in line with the law.

China to cut down on pornography and gambling

While I was interviewed for a newspaper article on the subject, I observed that, in a nation where the President is under fire for allowing law enforcement to eavesdrop on people who call al-Quaeda, voters are hardly likely to get behind any attempt to prevent Americans from gambling where they want. It might be a bit of an oversimplification, but I’ve learned that pithy beats laboriously analyzed any day of the week, particularly when you’re talking to a reported on deadline. Still, it’s something to ponder: do we want the government exercising China-style influence over the Internet?

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