The WSJ on the destruction of the former online gambling giant, BetonSports, as well as the Houdini-act of its fugitive founder, Gary Kaplan, whose whereabouts are "unknown."  Based on some of the details in the story–the machine-gunning of a computer terminal after the company lost big on a football game–Kaplan sounds like a tough guy to love.  This said, given the explosion of "legal" gambling in the United States, from Vegas to riverboats to Indian reservations to state lotteries to, yes, the stock market (investing isn't gambling, but trading is), the Puritanical crusade against online gambling seems, at best, arbitrary.

Can gambling addictions wreck people's lives?  Of course.  But now that we're all within a couple of hours ofa legal casino, the addicts are certainly going to find a way to get their fix, and it is arguably a heck of a lot more dangerous to drive home after losing your shirt than to stumble out of your desk-chair and into your bed.  And now that quasi-reputable companies have been banished from the ‘Net, the gamblers will just do business with the less-reputable ones, etc.

So it is not hard to believe that the law Congress passed last October banning online gambling was, in fact, just an act of protectionism, presumably sponsored by one of our country's most profitable and successful industries.  Oh, you can gamble all you want, says Congress–we just want to make sure that you have to buy some plane tickets, rent some hotel rooms, and eat at some restaurants while you do it.  And we want to make sure that you lose your money to our upstanding friends in the gambling lobby, not some sleazy dude in Costa Rica.

UPDATE

A reader writes that it's the potential loss of state tax revenue that gets politicians all up in arms about online gambling, not the Vegas and local-gambling lobbyists.  It seems that the industry could be regulated in a way that would allow each state to collect its generous helping, but then this would bring the potential loss of campaign funding and votes into play.