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You Might Stop the Party, but you Can't Stop the Future

by Brendan Murray |  Published: Mar 01, 2008


Germany's new-year offensive against online gaming (see Industry News) caught many observers by surprise, not the least because while the state was squeezing competition out of its own backyard with one hand, it was, through the European Union and World Trade Organisation, demanding compensation from the United States for exactly the same reason with the other.

In last month's editorial, I touched on the problems of state gambling monopolies in Europe, suggesting that legislators would be better placed to take a measured and mature approach and regulate online gaming.

It is hypocrisy of the highest order that the EU (through the WTO) challenged the U.S. Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), seeking compensation in the form of enhanced trade opportunities while many member states continue to thumb their noses at openness, competition, and individual freedoms.

Protectionism has dogged economic and political life since time immemorial, but this "do as I say, not as I do" attitude is crude schoolyard behavior written large.

Poker is many things to many people - from simple pastime to complex art form - and to restrict it as a legitimate form of human expression is nothing short of a scandal, which the German government should be ashamed of.

Gates-Way to the Future
As if to juxtapose the absurdity of vested interests trying to restrict online gaming and honest competition, Bill Gates' recent final keynote speech before retiring from Microsoft laid out his vision of the digital future.

"The second digital decade," as Gates described the coming 10 years, "will be more user-centric."

Computers will be ubiquitous to the extent that they will be built into our surroundings, seamlessly communicating with us and each other. Mobile devices will have visual recognition and current mundane web activities such as chat and shopping will be transformed into virtual 3-D environments with natural user interfaces. The keyboard and mouse will become redundant, allowing us to interact with each other in a much more realistic way.

"The trend is clear: all media and entertainment will be software-driven," said Gates.

The implications for poker and other types of virtual gaming are immense. From the way we access our accounts to how we interact at the table, everything will be transformed.

Our civic leaders would be well minded to recognize the truth in that old maxim: You can't uninvent technology.

You might stop the party, but you can't stop the future.