Mass. governor wants to jail online poker players while building 3 casinos

First-term Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is the gambling hypocrite's gambling hypocrite.

Patrick has been something of a hero to those of us in the Bay State who believe that grownups should be able dispose of their disposable income as they see fit, even if that means blowing it on a game of chance or skill inside of a casino. He's been pushing a controversial plan to open three such gambling houses here, which would spare his constituent gamblers - including poker players like yours truly - the trouble of driving to Connecticut casinos and keep the resultant tax revenue here where it belongs. It's the simply the right thing to do - despite the moralistic hectoring of conservatives and preachy paternalism of liberal opponents - and Patrick has received rightful praise for taking the heat to make it happen.

Now, however, it turns out that Patrick is just another blindingly hypocritical politician who's in the pocket of moneyed special interests: in his case, two moneyed special interests, the casino industry and the treasury department of the state of Massachusetts.

Simply put: Patrick wants to put online poker players in prison - in prison, right there along with the mother rapers and father stabbers - at the exact same moment he's mustering all of his newly won political muscle to build three giant poker rooms in our little state.

From this morning's Boston Globe:

Even as Governor Deval Patrick seeks to license three resort casinos in Massachusetts, he hopes to clamp down on the explosion in Internet gambling by making it illegal for state residents to place a bet on line. He has proposed jail terms of up to two years and $25,000 fines for violators.

Fortunately, for the sake of sanity and my continued freedom, there remain voices of reason among Bay State politicians, the most reasonable of which belongs to U.S. Rep. Barney Frank.

The provision, buried deep in Patrick's bill to allow three casinos to the state, puts the governor at odds with a fellow Democrat: US Representative Barney Frank, the sponsor of federal legislation to license and regulate online gambling nationally. Yesterday Frank strongly criticized the governor's plan to punish online gamers while inviting casino operators to set up shop.

"Why is gambling in a casino OK and gambling on the Internet is not?" Frank said. "He's making a big mistake. He's giving opponents an argument against him."

Of course, he's handing ammunition to gambling opponents. I mean it's simply not possible to straddle this fence without getting a picket up ... oh, let's not go there. It's simply an intellectual dishonesty of the highest degree to argue on one hand that it's desirable, even necessary, to build three casinos in this small state while at the same time moving to imprison anyone with the audacity to play poker from the privacy of their own Web browser.

Here's a prediction: Patrick will be backpedaling away from this folly before the end of the day.

Here's a second prediction: This incredibly stupid gambit - whether the governor's initiative or that of his advisors - will prove to be the beginning of the end of their efforts to build casinos here.

Guess we'll keep driving to civilized Connecticut.

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