Do Online Casinos Have Free Speech Rights?

by on August 23, 2004

That’s the question one online casino (Casino City, Inc.) is asking a federal district court to answer. Page C3 of today’s New York Times features an interesting story about the case, which Casino City filed in response to Department of Justice threats against publishers and broadcasters warning them to not print or display ads for online casinos. Casino City is seeking a declaratory judgment that Internet gambling advertising is constitutionally protected commercial free speech under the First Amendment.

It’s hard to understand how a court could come down against Casino City since traditional gambling interests are currently allowed to advertise anywhere they wish. Whenever I pick up one of those boring airline magazines while traveling by plane I find countless ads inviting me to come gamble at one casino or another, and not just in Vegas. Should those print ads for tangible casinos be protected speech while online gambling ads are verboten? Seems silly to me.

Efforts to ban online wagering are doomed to fail, as my TLF colleague Tom Bell showed five years ago in this fine piece: “Internet Gambling: Popular, Inexorable, and (Eventually) Legal.” And Koleman Strumpf’s research has proven this point as well.

Still, many lawmakers will persist in their efforts to prohibit such victimless crimes and, in the process, wipe out free speech rights and heavily regulate the Internet to boot. Why can’t we just let people peacefully dispose of their money as they wish? Why must our government constantly try to protect us from ourselves? Leave us alone!

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