Conservative figure softens opposition to gambling

In May 1989, syndicated columnist George Will wrote about the spread of gambling (and gambling taxes): “Now, one Nevada is kind of nice. But there is something sinister about more and more governments becoming more and more addicted to money from what was until recently considered a vice.”

Will seems to have made his peace with the notion. On Aug. 15, his column called for the federal government to make internet poker legal.

“In 2006, Congress, cloaking cunning with moralizing, effectively outlawed internet gambling by making it illegal for banks or credit-card companies to process payments to online gambling operations,” Will wrote. “This was more than moral pork for social conservatives. It also blocked online competitors from poaching gamblers from the nation’s most aggressive promoters of gambling—state governments. … Having turned gambling, which once was treated as a sin, into a social policy, government looks unusually silly criminalizing online forms of it.”

Will does draw a distinction between poker and other forms of gambling. Invoking 19th century mathematician John von Neumann, economist Oskar Morgenstern and Las Vegas poker promoter Howard Lederer, Will calls poker an example of “game theory”—“logic, probability and something pertinent to military and diplomatic strategy—bluffing.”