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The Andrew Goff column

INTERNET BUY BUY

13-07-2006

This year will see a record amount spent on sales via the Internet. From children's washable nappies to books to batteries to anything you can think of and plenty that you can't.

The sales will, in most cases, be made using a plastic card of some sort. This means that the supplier of what you are buying has a bank account and an agreement with a service provider.

When I ran a travel agency we accepted credit cards, through Barclays.

When we set the account up we had to jump through hoops to show we were a bona fide organisation, trading legitimately. They made a monthly charge and took a slice of the sales.

All pretty organised and efficient. We charged the cards and the money arrived in the bank. The bank knew we were a travel agency and, presumably, knew their cardholders and where they lived.

In the US it is estimated that the online gaming industry generates around £6.4bn a year, half from gamblers in the USA.

Now, the arbiters of good and evil, right wing Christian Republicans want to end all that. The House of Representatives is to introduce a bill to make it illegal for US- based banks and credit card firms to facilitate those online gambling purchases.

This raises certain questions.

Firstly, as most banks are global operators this could extend to British banks; will we be seeing more Natwest Three's being extradited for breaking American gambling prohibitions because transactions occurred in the UK?

Secondly, there are laws in the USA which can be broken just because an, otherwise elsewhere legitimate, transaction was made that passed through United States territory, albeit electronically.

Thirdly, where does it end?

Will they bring in a new law that prevents people from making purchases from countries on the proscribed trading list? I don't know what people might buy over the net from countries like Iran, Cuba or North Korea but I bet a lot buy goods or services from China. And, as the proscribed countries list is a moving goal post, one can imagine the chaos wrought by overnight changes in alliances.

Finally, why gambling? Why not porn sites? I bet, at great odds, as much is spent on those as is on gambling sites? Maybe more.

Or is it that those right wing Christians can live without gambling but can't make it through the night without their porn?

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