On Monday, April 27, the wise and knowing Minnesota Department of Public Safety (MDPS),  Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division (AGED) delivered written notice to 11 telephone / Internet service providers demanding they “prohibit access to all Minnesota-based computers to nearly 200 online gambling websites.”  Here’s a link to the press release

Ok, this is the Internet we’re talking about, right?  You know, the Information Superhighway?

I am guessing that these 11 respectable companies are recognized as Common Carriers by the great state of Minnesota.  That must be the only criteria for being selected for this list, otherwise, we at ipHouse would have received a request too.  Just for the sake of clarity, as of this posting, we have not received a request from the AGED.  But if we had received a request, we would have asked for some kind of legal backing.  And that’s where this falls down.  The great state of Minnesota is relying on the Wire Act of 1961 to enforce this ridiculous request.  

What I can’t see is how this request can be enforced, even using the Wire Act.  Before I snicker at any enforcement discussion I’ll put that question aside and just wait and see.

Now, as a citizen, I understand that the Minnesota Department of Transportation does not expect the companies who build our roads and bridges to enforce the speed limits on the roads they build.  Further, we would never expect or request these same construction companies to do vehicle contraband inspections at the state border.  So, WHY ON EARTH does the Minnesota Department of Public Safety  think that they should conscript the builders of the Internet (Information Superhighway, get it?) to do their enforcement?    Why not go after the people who are committing crimes instead of the people who build the roads?  You don’t task road builders with catching drunk drivers, do you?

John Willems is the director of AGED and I can’t help but wonder  what he was really thinking when he said this:

“In broader context, the long-running debate on online gambling continues to raise significant issues, including absence of policy and regulation, individual rights, societal impact, international fair-trade practices, and funding for criminal and terrorist organizations.”

Does he really think that Joe the Plumber is betting on the Red Sox and innocently funding Al-Qaeda?   Come on.  Isn’t the whole terrorist thing a little over used? 

I agree that there is a long running debate on gambling in our society.  But it’s not just online gambling.   To me, the issue of gambling in our society PALES in comparison to some of the other issues Mr. Willems mentions; individual rights and international fair trade practice.  If Minnesota is going to remain competitive in the WORLD, we cannot be xenophobicly locking down our borders to international trade across any of our transit ways, be it by water, air, rail, road or Internet.

Now, as you look at these various transit ways, all of them EXCEPT the Internet have a specific geographic nexus.  Nearly all transit ways have ports of entry and it’s easy to see geographic boundaries between nations and states.  It’s pretty easy to understand the nexus of a shipment of goods coming across the St. Lawrence sea way is the port of entry at Duluth harbor.  It’s all very black and white.  But the Internet is in as gray area and different because the NEXUS of the transaction is vague.  What is the nexus of a Minnesotan purchasing software from Belgium or India?  What happens when part of the software is written in China?    The nexus of Internet transactions are VAGUE.

It appears that Mr. Willems has defined the nexus of online gambling is at the individual users computer, right here in Minnesota.  If that’s right, then Mr. Willems should target the individuals who are committing the crimes.  Why not go to the credit card companies and ask them to report all the transactions between the citizens of Minnesota and these 200 gambling websites?  Because he can’t afford to.  It’s easier for him to push on the road builders instead of all the motorists who use the roads.

We all know that as citizens of Minnesota have REAL problems that need REAL attention.  Like drunk driving and alcohol addiction.  Like air pollution and lung disease.  If Mr. Willems wants to protect the citizens of the great state of Minnesota, maybe he should focus on some of the more pressing problems facing the state.

I’m a firm believer in regulating things to protect our society.  Regulating polluters so future generations can enjoy the outdoors seems obvious to me.  Regulating alcohol sales to prevent underage drinking, I’m all on board.  So why not legalized and regulated online gambling?  It could be a revenue source for the state just like the other areas that Mr. Willems has under his jurisdiction.  Mr. Willems, why not be progressive and start regulating online gambling like you do with bricks and mortar gambling?  

Whatever the outcome Mr. Willems, just don’t ask me to collect your revenue for you.  I’m neither an enforcer nor a tax collector.  I’m a road builder.