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Long Odds For Online Gaming Legislation In US 148

Posted by timothy
from the how-about-liberty-unadorned? dept.
crimeandpunishment writes "The odds of Congress passing legislation to legalize and tax online gaming are probably no better than those of filling an inside straight, but some lawmakers are pushing for it anyway, hoping to lay the foundation for future passage. At a hearing Wednesday, one lawmaker cited numbers from industry analysts that Americans bet nearly $100 billion a year on the Internet, generating $5 billion for offshore operators. He said laws to prevent online gaming are no more effective than Prohibition was to alcohol."
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Long Odds For Online Gaming Legislation In US

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  • At first I thought they were going to tax and regulate gold farmers in WoW.
    • They should probably do that, too.

      I kid! I kid!

      • by blair1q (305137)

        I don't know why you're kidding. People sell stuff in online venues for real money all the time. Those transactions should be taxed. And if barter in online goods is trackable, that can be taxed as well.

        Though I'm not sure if the U.S. Treasury is set up to store a barrow full of zorkmids anywhere...

        • Well, it would be nice to get the IRS to help track down the gold buyers and sellers, So that they can be removed from the game they were never meant to be a part of in the first place.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Darkness404 (1287218)
          No it shouldn't be taxed. People should only be taxed for what they use, when I buy an online good for physical money what service of the government am I using? I use paypal which is a private company to use my private credit card on a private site to get something online which go through the privately owned internet lines which I pay for out of my own pocket, to another privately owned server where I play my game.

          Pay for what you use, the government doesn't even enter into the equation except for a ver
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by g0bshiTe (596213)
            You're privately owned internet lines are actually owned or leased by a public utility.
            • Oh and I get free internet access? I pay money to use the internet, charge the ISP for use of public lines but until I get free internet, or own an ISP, such a tax doesn't make sense because I paid for it once, why should I pay for it again?
          • No it shouldn't be taxed. People should only be taxed for what they use, when I buy an online good for physical money what service of the government am I using? I use paypal which is a private company to use my private credit card on a private site to get something online which go through the privately owned internet lines which I pay for out of my own pocket, to another privately owned server where I play my game. Pay for what you use, the government doesn't even enter into the equation except for a very, very, very, small amount. Such exchanges should never be taxed. The government should be a service provider, nothing more. If you don't use the service for a transaction you don't have to pay. Taxing such things is like adding shipping and handling to them, they don't need it so it shouldn't be paid.

            use taxes inherently punish the poor, for whom the taxes are a much larger percentage of their comparatively smaller income.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Antisyzygy (1495469)
            Yes you should. By that argument my income should not be taxed.
            • In all honesty, no your income should not be taxed. But by paying income/property taxes you fund a lot of things. Myself I would be in favor of a flat fee for defense that is paid per household and then paying only for what you use. Such a tax is the only fair tax and is fiscally responsible.
              • by tepples (727027)

                Myself I would be in favor of a flat fee for defense that is paid per household

                Are you in favor of social safety nets for people whose income isn't enough to cover rent, food, heat, and defense?

                • It depends. First off, I would be in favor of elimination those imperialistic and harmful wars such as the "war on terror" and the "war on drugs" and focusing on defense not "lets go out and attack a country or fund tyrants because we don't like a policy". Defense is quite cheap for the time being because we have the technology already developed. So the fee would be very low, as in a hundred dollars or less per year. Now, this would be per household (as in reality it costs no more to defend a house of 1 a
                  • Are they living in the cheapest area possible?

                    No, and they might have good excuses:

                    • The cheapest area possible might have high unemployment.
                    • The cheapest area might be in another country that doesn't want any poor foreigners on its soil.
                    • It costs a significant chunk of change to travel hundreds of miles or hundreds of kilometers to a cheaper area.
                  • by Alinabi (464689)

                    Defense is quite cheap for the time being because we have the technology already developed

                    And that technology will become obsolete faster than a speeding bullet once you stop funding it.

                    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                      by Darkness404 (1287218)
                      ...Because after all the world is going to grow even larger so we need even more nuclear weapons?
                    • by Alinabi (464689)
                      I think the main nuclear powers have not been building any new nuclear warheads for several decades. The arms race these days involves mostly conventional weapons, and for any defensive weapon you build, someone will soon build an offensive one that can defeat it.
          • when I buy an online good for physical money what service of the government am I using?

            National defense of the land on which the makers of this online good live.

            I use paypal which is a private company to use my private credit card on a private site to get

            The government performs the service of forcing payment processors not to scam the droppings out of you.

            something online which go through the privately owned internet lines which I pay for out of my own pocket

            The government performs the service of forcing nonsubscribers to let the last mile go over their land to reach subscribers. In your reply to g0bshiTe's post, you mention the franchise fee included in your ISP bill, but I'm not entirely sure that this pays for the entire cost of the services that the government provides to your ISP.

          • Yes, sure, the government doesn't enter into the equation directly. But the government is the one undersigning your money, enforcing the laws that allow such private services to operate freely, the electricity that powers all the services, and of course the whole defence side of the equation.

            Now I'm not saying that transactions such as those should be taxed - if it had occurred as a straight barter or cash-for-goods in "the real world", it'd be absurd to suggest it. But just consider for a minute that the g

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by johnsonav (1098915)

            People should only be taxed for what they use, when I buy an online good for physical money what service of the government am I using? I use paypal which is a private company to use my private credit card on a private site to get something online which go through the privately owned internet lines which I pay for out of my own pocket, to another privately owned server where I play my game.

            That's all well and good, I suppose. But when you pay money for an online good and the seller reneges on the deal to deliver, just don't come crying to the government-run courts or police, okay?

            • by mcvos (645701)

              But when you pay money for an online good and the seller reneges on the deal to deliver, just don't come crying to the government-run courts or police, okay?

              This is the post that needs to be modded up. Laws do apply to private transactions. You can expect legal protection, therefore it's not unreasonable to pay tax on those transactions.

              Of course the turn side of this is: if I need to pay tax over transactions of virtual goods, I also expect legal protection for those transactions.

        • >>>People sell stuff in online venues for real money all the time. Those transactions should be taxed

          The problem is determining who does the taxing. Normally if I walk into a store, I pay tax to whichever locale I'm standing in, but if I order from a long distance state like Poland and ship it the UK, I don't have to pay tax to Poland because I'm not a Polish citizen. So the item ends-up being taxfree (unless UK taxes it directly, but that's usually not the case).

          • by mcvos (645701)

            I consider that quite a serious hole in sales tax laws. I also don't understand the tax-free shopping at airports.

            • by blair1q (305137)

              It's not tax-free, it's duty-free; it applies international export tax rates to goods still sitting on local soil, where the tax rate is probably different.

              Companies that export products can elect to set aside a portion of their production for different tax treatment; they have to segregate the product storage physically, and secure it, to ensure that the units never get intermingled with the other group. They can even have their entire output from a factory classed that way, such that if an employee wants

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          ... Those transactions should be taxed. ...

          Why? What is this statement based on?

          Just going through life, assuming that everything "should be taxed" is ridiculous! This thought process of feed the machine so it can take care of us, is just plain naive.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jimbolauski (882977)
      They will probably just attach it to the net neutrality bill.
      • Re:First Thought (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Enigma2175 (179646) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @04:59PM (#32285264) Homepage Journal

        They will probably just attach it to the net neutrality bill.

        Why would they attach it to something that was even remotely related? When they passed the current ban it was attached to the "Safe Ports Act". It's a common practice to attach unrelated amendments to popular bills (What, you don't want safe ports? You terrorist!), I'm sure they will just attach a new ban on the "Safe Children Act" or the "America, Fuck Yeah! Act".

    • by toastar (573882)

      My first thought was why can I bet on this at intrade?

    • The odds of Congress passing legislation... are probably no better than those of filling an inside straight.

      Let's see: 4 cards out of the remaining 47. Sounds like about 8.5%. That's not exactly impossible.
      Confirmed. [basicholdem.info]

    • Five bucks says it doesn't pass! Any takers?
  • Prohibition (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "He said laws to prevent online gaming are no more effective than Prohibition was to alcohol." ... or to pot

    • Or maybe Al Capone 2.0

    • There is no way it will pass. It is critically important that our lawmakers project an appearance of conservatism, piety and wholesomeness in order to maintain a critical voting mass to get re-elected. Meanwhile they can go back to their full-time job of skirt chasing and boozing when they think nobody is looking.

    • As ineffective as:
      war on drugs
      war on terrorism
      walls on the borders
      war for peace
      sex for chastity
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 20, 2010 @04:47PM (#32285072)

    NewSpeak is not spoken here. The word you are looking for is gambling, not gaming. Big difference.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Itninja (937614)
      Gambling is gaming, but gaming is not gambling. Like the old saying 'a raisin is a plum, but a prune is not a grape'....wait, is that right?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      NewSpeak is not spoken here. The word you are looking for is gambling, not gaming. Big difference.

      Nevada Gaming Comission [wikipedia.org]

      Founded in 1959. Using "Gaming" to refer to "Gambling" has been around for at least a bit of time.

      And if anyone would have some input on Gambling / Gaming, Nevada would.

      • by musth (901919) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @05:09PM (#32285414)

        Of course it has, because Nevada has every reason to sell gambling with an image of harmless fun, just like all gambling profiteers do. Just because a bulls**t locution has been around a long time doesn't make it less of a bulls**t locution.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Of course it has, because Nevada has every reason to sell gambling with an image of harmless fun, just like all gambling profiteers do. Just because a bulls**t locution has been around a long time doesn't make it less of a bulls**t locution.

          Your bias is thick.

          "gambling profiteers"? Anyone who is in the entertainment industry is a "profiteer", i.e. one who does it for the profit.

          Laws against Gambling, Drugs, and Prostitution are artifacts of a puritanical government. Our culture should be evolved enough to trust individuals to make their own decisions.

          Please present your argument why I, as a free adult in supposedly the greatest country in the land, cannot use my money to entertain myself.

          I am not victimizing anyone, I am not affecting anyone e

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Antisyzygy (1495469)
            In practice drugs and gambling can cause people to destroy themselves. Ask any recovering addict. Though gambling and drug use is not inherently immoral, I dont see the harm in preventing people from killing themselves on heroin, or from gambling their life savings away. Now, where to draw the line? I dont know. Hence the reason is probably better for the government to stay out of it. Thus I contradict myself.
            • by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @06:18PM (#32286346) Journal

              Indeed. Where does the line get drawn? Alcohol does all these things, and is the most commonly used drug out there, and yet, despite whatever good the Temperance Movement hoped to produce by prohibiting its sale and intake, it proved an absolute failure, for precisely the same reason that prohibitions on narcotics, gambling and prostitution have been dismal failures.

              The only reason alcohol, and to a limited extent gambling, are more permissible than narcotics and prostitution is because of what amounts to an irrational motivation based on prejudices. Alcohol is seen, quite wrongly, as a largely harmless recreational drink (despite the clear short-term physiological and mental effects and the absolutely horrible effects of long-term heavy consumption). Gambling is somewhat lower on society's list of vices, so governments opt to allow it with one degree or another of state control, and attempts to shut down illegal gambling don't amount to enforcement of public morals so much as enforcement of a state monopoly. But yet again, an addicted gambler is an addicted gambler, regardless of whether he's punching the money into a heavily taxed slot machine or he's doing it through some online gambling site in the Grand Caymans or, heck, playing an illegal craps game in the back alley.

              As to prostitution and narcotics, well, yes, they're bad. Are they worse, overall, than alcohol and gambling? All of them have the capacity to destroy lives, and certainly alcohol has to be the king of destroying lives. When we get rid of a motivation that amounts to legislating based on ick and fear factors (I mean, what other reason would you be able to buy a case of beer legally but get nailed for buying a couple of joints), it becomes awfully hard to justify these morality laws. You will never get rid of prostitution, no matter how harsh the laws. You will never get rid of narcotics use. The issue then should be not pointless and endless wars against them, but rather finding ways to accept that prostitution and narcotics and, yes, online gambling, will happen and then work to mitigate them. For the state, that usually amounts to taxation and control. Admittedly doing that online is a considerable challenge, maybe even impossible, just as impossible as it would be to stop all street walkers even with legal brothels or all back alley craps games even with legal casinos.

              • by drinkypoo (153816)

                I think the truth is simpler. Alcohol has been used by virtually all cultures on earth since before history was history. The earliest stories of beer-making come from our earliest civilizations in the fertile crescent and they have stories which were old to THEIR cultures about some "gods" (perhaps as Neal Stephenson suggests in Snow Crash, in actuality the first "modern people") inventing brewing. It's simply part of being human and you cannot stamp it out. Gambling is probably similar...

            • by Tet (2721) *

              I dont see the harm in preventing people from killing themselves on heroin, or from gambling their life savings away

              As a professional gambler, I can assure you that I'm light years away from losing my life saving, and make a very healthy income. Yet you're claiming I shouldn't be free to pursue my chosen means of making money because there happen to be some people that aren't disciplined enough to run their own financial affairs. That doesn't sound entirely fair to me.

              • by drinkypoo (153816)

                Yet you're claiming I shouldn't be free to pursue my chosen means of making money because there happen to be some people that aren't disciplined enough to run their own financial affairs. That doesn't sound entirely fair to me.

                How does it benefit society to permit you to exploit the addictions of others in order to make money? Depending on how much you play and who you play with, you're harming dozens to thousands of people so that you can enjoy what many people on this planet would consider to be an extravagant lifestyle. How is that fair?

                • by Tet (2721)
                  Please explain how I'm exploiting anyone's addition by placing a bet with a bookmaker.
                  • by drinkypoo (153816)

                    Please explain how I'm exploiting anyone's addition by placing a bet with a bookmaker.

                    Add it up [elyrics.net] yourself. Take a look now at what your boy has done.

                    Seriously though, every bet has winners and losers. You can't win without someone else losing. A number of those losers are addicted. It shouldn't take a fucking flowchart to figure this out. Gambling hurts people. If you can live with that, that's okay, but if you can't live without it without lying to yourself, then you should stop. To do otherwise is to invite schizophrenia. Gambling often ruins people and even drives a percentage of them t

                    • by Tet (2721)

                      You can't win without someone else losing. A number of those losers are addicted. It shouldn't take a fucking flowchart to figure this out.

                      True, every winning bet has a loser on the other side. But to claim the losers are addicted shows a staggering lack of understanding when it comes to gambling. The losers with most of my bets are bookmakers, not individuals. They tend to be massive corporations with market caps in the billions. Am I hurting them when I win? Sure. Is that the same as hurting an individua

                    • by drinkypoo (153816)

                      True, every winning bet has a loser on the other side. But to claim the losers are addicted shows a staggering lack of understanding when it comes to gambling.

                      No, the opposite is true. My last full-time job was doing database reporting for a casino. I have sat and stared at the millions thrown away by players. It doesn't matter if you're placing a sports bet or playing a slot machine, there's always more losers than winners. To fail to understand this is to show a staggering lack of understanding when it comes to gambling. You don't think a large percentage of those losers are addicted? Think again. Addiction is the mechanism that keeps us playing video games lon

        • Sort of like how brewing companies portray beer drinkers as zesty, sex, youthful people having an awesome time, as opposed to portraying them at 2pm puking their guts out, getting into fights, passing out in the bathroom or accidentally conceiving children.

          Gamblers, like drinkers, do keep the industries that feed their pleasure, or in both cases, addictions. I mean, what does an alcoholic produce?

      • by Locke2005 (849178)
        Do they also have a "Nevada Paid Fun-time Companion Commission"?

        (P.S. "Commission" has 2 m's)
  • by H0p313ss (811249) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @04:47PM (#32285076)
    I'm sure that depends on who you talk to. Lots of people made lots of money because of Prohibition.
    • by bjourne (1034822)

      If you talk to anyone who is involved in running gambling sites, they will loudly protest against the current ban. Not because the ban is making them shitloads of money, but because legalized gambling would make them even more money. The US market is already huge and expected to explode when gambling becomes legal. And it will be, the companies have more than enough money to force lobby that decision through.

      What this means is that the gambling ban *is effective*. Less Americans gamble than they would other

  • by exigentsky (771810) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @04:52PM (#32285140)

    I find it strange that there is a discussion about this issue at all. What people do with their money as long as they aren't hurting others is their business. The government has no right to snoop around and play Big Brother.

    Moreover, it gets even more ridiculous due to the sheer hypocrisy of it all. The government is just fine with lotteries or land-based gaming interests (with powerful lobbies) but suddenly when it's online everything changes. They want a piece of the pie but are too stupid to know how and so they try to destroy everything.

    The whole thing is completely absurd and incoherent - especially when it comes to poker. Poker is not even gambling, it's a game of skill. It's not chess but the skill element is still undeniable - as players who've won millions of dollars over millions of hands have proven. It could almost be considered a branch of applied mathematics for some forms that are almost solved like limit holdem. Yes, luck plays a big role in any hand but once you get to a reasonable sample size like 100k hands or more it's negligible. I play poker in my spare time and I think it's an interesting challenge that also helps me better understand myself. The variance and multitude of situations will help you become more disciplined, aware when you're not at peak performance and help you deal with failure better. Poker players constantly face failure even when they are ahead but good players don't let it affect them and play the same logical, disciplined game - weighing the odds and understanding their opponents. Online poker is still legal but the thought of the government intruding into one of my hobbies disgusts me.

    • by Pharmboy (216950) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @05:15PM (#32285490) Journal

      The government is just fine with lotteries

      Because THEY are making the profit. Here in NC, alcohol is considered so evil, that only The State is allowed to sell it. In both cases, it is a scam for politicians to insure that the government makes the money instead of private businesses (ie: socialism), and it is easy to get the votes from people who are against gambling and alcohol, because "at least the state is making sure people aren't abusing it", which should send you into a laughing fit.

      Here in NC, the justification for the lotto was that it became the "Education Lottery" (ie: think of the children). This way they can give "extra money" to schools. Of course, general funding goes down as it supplanted by the lotto money, so the net result is that the money really goes to the general fund, but unfortunately, most people just don't understand this shell game even if you explain it. "Well, its a good thing we gots the lottery! They cut the budget and the lotto money will make up the difference! Think of dah chilren!"

      The worse abuse is that part of the justification was "well, people are going to gamble anyway, we are just providing an outlet". Then wtf do you need to advertise? Why do you need to drum up new business, if your goals are so honorable and only to take care of existing demand? Again, it is a socialistic way to control something popular and take the profit, where it can be divided up by special interests as pay back for the money that lobbyists invested in our elected officials.

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Poker with your friends might be a game of skill. Poker with 4 other people who could all be in the same room together over the internet is not a game of skill, it's a sucker's bet.
    • by Inda (580031)

      Even betting on football is a skill. A numbers game skill. The skill is knowing when the bookmarkers have made a mistake, when to bet and when not.

      Manchester United are classed as a banker. They rarely lose. Typical odds on them winning a home game is @1.20. £1 on all their games throughout the season will lose you money - it's how the bookmakers make their money. Obvious, when you think about it.

      Just like playing a hand of poker, you need to know when to bet and when not.

      I think it's silly not

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      Poker is not even gambling, it's a game of skill.

      You're playing with words. Poker is pointless unless you're playing for real money (even if it's only for pennies at school lunchtime) unlike chess.

      Something does not have to rely on pure chance to be considered gambling, you can say there is a certain amount of skill in betting on horse races or football matches too.

  • The problem with vice is that liberals don't want to punish people for acting out and conservatives don't want to give people the choice to even take the vice (and often then, like liberals, don't punish the person for harming others). For example, the fastest way to make people shape up in their use of intoxicants is to pass a law that says "no state of intoxication brought on by willing consumption or or exposure to intoxicating substances shall be a mitigating factor in the assessment of guilt for any fe

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      Likewise, if compulsive gamblers knew that the state government would send them to prison under a modern "debtor's prison" that applies only to those people who are in unmanagable debt because of vice consumption would think twice.

      People who are addicted to gambling aren't going to think twice because the government might send them to prison.

      If they don't think twice knowing that a guy named Vito is going to break their legs for not paying the debts from the game they lost last week, no threat from the gove

    • by Blindman (36862)

      I was with you up until "debtor's prison." First, there may be some constitutional issues with debtor's prison. In addition, debtor's prisons are primarily for the benefit of lenders, and I don't see why people that lend to gamblers should be treated better than people than lend to figurine collectors. In addition, there is probably something that everybody buys that some other person things is a bad idea, so there really isn't a good way to objectively assess what is and is not "vice consumption."

      Someti

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      For example, the fastest way to make people shape up in their use of intoxicants is to pass a law that says "no state of intoxication brought on by willing consumption or or exposure to intoxicating substances shall be a mitigating factor in the assessment of guilt for any felony offense or be used as a basis for reducing the sentence upon conviction.

      While I agree that "Hey, I was shitfaced at the time!" should never be a valid excuse, I think you are overestimating the ability of intoxicated people to ma
    • by Sir_Dill (218371)

      For example, the fastest way to make people shape up in their use of intoxicants is to pass a law that says "no state of intoxication brought on by willing consumption or or exposure to intoxicating substances shall be a mitigating factor in the assessment of guilt for any felony offense or be used as a basis for reducing the sentence upon conviction." .

      I love that your solution is to pass another law....not only another law but a completely pointless and redundant one at that.

      I am not aware of ANY state in the US or any COUNTRY in the world where "I drank/smoked/ate too much and was fucked up" is a viable defense. Infact I believe that certain prescription drugs can run you afoul of DUI laws despite being prescribed.

      The reality is that there is no way for someone to MAKE another person do something like take responsibility and learn their limit.

      No am

  • At first I thought it referred to gaming as in gamers, not gaming as in gambling. I am sure there are many others who made the same mistake, seeing as Slashdot has a Games section.
  • Always use "gaming", not "gambling"! "Gaming", you see, is evocative of apple-pie harmless American fun around the kitchen table, and who could be against THAT??? Besides, your libertarian ideological masters are all about Free Enterprise, just like the Vegas corporations.

    *rolls eyes*

    • by Wuhao (471511)

      It is hardly doublespeak to use the word "gaming" to refer to the practice of gambling. Indeed, the first definition of the word "gaming" in every dictionary I check refers specifically to gambling.

      http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gaming [wiktionary.org]

      1. (gambling) The business of offering games of chance for money.

      http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gaming [merriam-webster.com]

      Main Entry: gaming
      Function: noun
      Date: 1501
      1 : the practice of gambling

      http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/gaming [reference.com]

      gaming [gey-ming] Show IPA
      –noun
      1.
      gamblin

  • "...if we get a cut!" I've never understood this logic. Either we have the ethical/moral/legal right to gamble online or we do not, but the debate should not include whether the government sees revenue from the activity. The only justification for this is if all of the tax proceeds went towards Gambler's Anonymous or something.
  • Just like the war on drugs, war on terror, censorship...

  • It was _way_ more effective than prohibiting online gambling. Or online prostitution, porn, file trading, yadda, yadda, yadda. Give up already.
  • Send them to jail, before we legalize it.

    Nice.

  • Why can't we have sports books like race book that are in place?

    Just let them take bets on all sports and that will cut down on the on line gaming.

    also how about all that free IP that argentina has?

  • by PPH (736903) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @10:08PM (#32288394)
    ... I was buying put options on the Lakers, or hedging my poker hand and call it good.
  • I had to read half-way through the comments to realise that this wasn't about online gaming, but online gambling.

    This is SlashDot. I don't care if there is precedent for calling gambling gaming; Online gaming to 99% of the people here means WoW, CounterStrike, and other computer games, not online gambling. Or are you going to start specifying articles regarding computer games mention the word "computer game" throughout the stub?
  • probably no better than those of filling an inside straight, but some lawmakers are pushing for it anyway

    I call

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