Online Gambling Roundup

I have a Cato podcast today looking at federal efforts to ban online gambling. Jacob Sullum and Walter Williams have also offered critiques of the crackdown, including the recent arrest of BetonSports.com CEO David Carruthers.

In a sort of convergence of two issues I’ve been covering lately, last month, a SWAT team conducted a heavy-handed raid of an underground poker room in Dallas. The SWAT team brought along a camera crew from the A&E reality show Dallas SWAT to record the action. This was no Sopranos-style game where everybody’s packing. It was a well-known, advertised, gray-area gathering of poker fans. The Pokerati blog has more details.

For posterity, here’s a photo of the Dallas SWAT team. This is what they brought to crack down on a group of people playing cards. The Pokerati blog says the SWAT team brought computer-generated maps that looked to be specific to poker rooms, indicating that this is likely the first of many such raids.

And it isn’t the first time. SWAT teams have also been breaking up underground games in New York City. They’ve even been used to raid charity poker games in Baltimore, Denver, and all over the state of Ohio.

In my home state of Virginia, a SWAT team shot and killed unarmed Sal Culosi last January. They had come to arrest the optometrist for the crime of betting on sports games with friends. And in 1998, a SWAT team on a gambling raid in Virginia Beach shot and killed security guard Edward C. Reid, who was in a car reading a book, and mistook the police officers for burglars (the club he was guarding had been robbed months earlier).

It’s scary how quickly “good-intentioned” paternalism can turn into frightening militarism.