Governments are the latest to benefit from online gambling either by directly offering internet gambling to the public or by taxing companies that offer gambling to their citizens. The government of Belgium, a tiny country of 10 million people known for its beer and chocolate, recently set up its internet gaming regulations and only a handful of sites managed to successfully obtain a gambling license. The government has taken severe measures to blacklist operators who are knowingly serving citizens of Belgium and have issued an official blacklist of “illegal” sites.
Belgium has also threatened with ISP blocks and to issue fines to blacklisted sites as well as to players found playing on blacklisted sites.
Operators who continue to service Belgian players face fines up to €100,000. Players in Belgium who play on unlicensed sites face fines up to €25,000.
One of the strongest arguments made by governments who are trying to protect their gaming interests are that tax dollars are not flowing to the government. But do they have the right to take away this freedom of choice away from players? Poker and gambling have an entertainment value and people want to get the most of that value. If the government told people they were not allowed to travel to Las Vegas to gamble, and furthermore that they would be fined for doing so, wouldn’t that be ridiculous?
South Korea actually has such a law where no citizen of South Korea is allowed to place a wager outside of the country, even if it’s on a holiday to Las Vegas. A well known television personality was jailed a couple of years back for gambling in Hong Kong.
Consider the tax argument it a different way, say in the case of poker.
If you, as a citizen of Country A, play against a citizen of Country B and win money from them or win money in a big tournament that is funded by citizens of many different countries, this is money that is surely to flow back to Country A in some way through spending and a tax will ultimately be collected. Of course, since skill is involved, the country with the net benefit to be gained will be the country whose players are the most skillful.
Is this type of harassment the way of the future? Time will tell.