States looking to legalize and tax online gambling, NYT reports

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In our Aug. 4 cover story, “Underdog Hand,” Ashley Belanger examined the fallout from a federal ban on online gambling through the fortunes of Grayson Nichols, a Windermere-based poker whiz struggling to adjust to a radically different gambling landscape. Though Nichols’ profession had essentially been eliminated with the disappearance of the web’s largest poker websites—before the Department of Justice and the FBI seized the sites in April, Nichols was raking in between $50K and $100K per year playing online poker--Nichols was confident that the websites would reappear in the near future, legalized on the condition that they’d be regulated. That idea surfaced prominently in the Sunday edition of the New York Times this past weekend in an article titled “Starved Budgets Inspire New Look at Web Gambling.” The gist of the piece is summarized in paragraphs four and five:

It’s an idea gaining currency around the country: virtual gambling as part of the antidote to local budget woes. The District of Columbia is the first to legalize it, while Iowa is studying it, and bills are pending in places like California and Massachusetts.

But the states may run into trouble with the Justice Department, which has been cracking down on all forms of Internet gambling. And their efforts have given rise to critics who say legalized online gambling will promote addictive wagering and lead to personal debt troubles.

For the local angle on this legislative push, check out Belanger’s piece, which features a discussion with Florida state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, who introduced a bill last legislative session which would allow the state to “regulate Internet poker sites that can ensure consumer protections and additional revenue to the state by authorizing, implementing and creating a licensing and regulatory structure and system of Internet poker.” Though the bill did not pass next year, Abruzzo told the Weekly that it would be reintroduced next session, which begins in January.

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