US crisis must lead to online gambling

Has the US got money to burn?
Has the US got money to burn?

The $3.8 trillion federal budget for 2011 proposed by President Barack Obama makes for grim reading. The United States couldn’t be in direr economic straits if Bernard Madoff was in charge of the Treasury – but surely the ever-gaping hole in the economy can only strengthen the cause for the regulation of online gaming.

The US national debt currently stands at more than $12tn. To put that into perspective, if you took that amount of money in $10 bills and laid them end-to-end, they would reach beyond the sun, more than 90 million miles away – except it wouldn’t because the notes would catch fire, but that’s a moot point.

The point is that America is reeling. The projected deficit in the coming year is nearly 11 per cent of the country’s entire economic output – figures only previously seen during the Civil War and the two World Wars. At least in those instances, Uncle Sam could take a crumb of comfort from the fact that post-war peacetime would naturally see a recovery. There is no such refuge now.

If Obama’s new stimulus spending proposal is passed, it would bring the projected deficit for the current budget year to $1.6 trillion. Worse still, and yes it gets worse, is that President Obama has predicted that US deficits will not return to sustainable levels for another 10 years. That’s TEN years. Indeed, in 2019 and 2020 deficits are projected to start rising again sharply, to more than 5 percent of gross domestic product.

Now of course, predicting that far ahead is a bit like pissing in the dark but the worrying thing is just how gloomy the outlook is. Politicians tend to put a positive spin on unforeseeable, long-term scenarios but Obama’s view is little short of apocalyptical. And you can only assume that it has not taken into account of potential future resource-drainers like, say, a war with Iran, another 9/11 or perhaps the San Francisco earthquake we’ve all been waiting for.

So with all of the above reading like a passage from a Cormac McCarthy novel, surely the US needs to do everything – anything – in its power to save its soul? Surely legalizing online gambling is a complete no-brainer. Why is there even a debate?

A recent report into the UK gambling market revealed that the UK betting industry is worth £6bn. It employs over 100,000 people and generates over £700m in taxes per annum. Just imagine the possibilities in the ‘Land of the Free’.

Actually, you don’t need to. In October a Joint Committee on Taxation report found that regulating Internet gambling would generate roughly $42 billion over 10 years. So, seriously what are they waiting for?

Quite apart from the moral pros and cons of deregulation, the fact is America is up shit creek without a paddle. Thing is, there is a motor on board if only someone can be bothered to switch it on.