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Ontario Taking First Steps Towards Banning Online Poker?

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All bets are off, if Ontario has its wayRICHARD BLACKWELL From Thursday's Globe and MailThe Ontario government is expected to introduce legislation Thursday that will ban advertisements of illegal Internet gambling websites.But the new law — part of a broad package of consumer legislation — could create a huge headache for media companies that will have to closely examine advertisements to make sure they don't include indirect links to illegal sites.The legislation will not stop advertising of free poker sites or similar sites where no money changes hands, unless those sites have links to betting sites, said Paul de Zara, a spokesman for Ontario's Minister of Government Services, Gerry Phillips.It is not unusual for the province to ban advertising of illegal activities, Mr. de Zara said. “We don't allow drug dealers to advertise crack houses or after-hours booze cans in the Toronto Star or The Globe and Mail, and this is the same kind of principle,” he said.In an interview, Mr. Phillips said the province wanted to act because of studies that show “an increasing number of young people are gambling on the Internet.” He also said he has been under pressure from the province's horse-racing industry, which is concerned about a decline in business because of Internet gambling.Because the province doesn't have the power to actually shut down the websites — that would have to be done by the federal government under the criminal code — the best it can do it ban the advertising, Mr. de Zara said.But the actual legal status of gambling websites is not absolutely clear, said Danielle Bush, a lawyer who follows the issue at McCarthy Tétrault in Toronto.While operating a betting site in Canada is illegal, sites that are based offshore — for instance in Britain, where on-line gambling is legal — fall in a “grey area,” Ms. Bush said. And there is nothing in the criminal code that says it is illegal for an individual to place bets on-line, she said.At the same time, it will be tough for media outlets to monitor their advertisers to ensure they are adhering to the law, Ms. Bush said.“They are going to have to examine every ad that they carry and start looking with a microscope at the website address and chase it down to see where it leads, to decide whether or not that's an illegal gaming site,” she said. “That sounds impossible to me.”And if media firms refused to run ads without strong evidence of illegal activity, they could end up subject to lawsuits from advertisers, Ms. Bush said.Over all, it is very difficult for governments to stop on-line gambling, she said. Some, like Britain, have decided to try to regulate it rather than to ban it.“On-line gaming is a fact of life now in North America and worldwide, and I don't think there are many people left who think it is going to go away or lessen in any significant fashion,” she said.The United States, however, is trying to stamp it out, and has recently introduced legislation that tries to prevent banks from getting involved in payments to on-line gambling firms, wherever they are based. That legislation is also expected to be difficult to enforce.Mr. Phillips said he has written to the federal government to ask them to take more action against Internet gambling. However, “I'm not sure what they should do” to stem it, he said.
Of course in an interview they trott out the usual "child protection" and other strawmen justifications for their actiions but at least one minister admited that lobbying from the horseracing industry played a large part.What the gov't does not want to admit is that the gov'ts sport book making operations, Pro-Line and the gov't Casino's profits are suffering due to the competition of the internet. Ontarios largest casino laid off more then 100 employees last week due to declining sales. Also the gov't is not getting their cut by being able to tax these transactions.This is protectionism pure and simple. In the old days the mobster would send out someone to break your knee caps if you cut into his gaming profits. In this case the gov't will send enforcers with guns to your home to ensure the profits only flow into their coffers.
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