Possibilities become realities every day on the Internet, usua

Possibilities become realities every day on the Internet, usually to the applause of a public almost giddy with the opportunities for personal indulgence available on the information superhighway.

Much of what the Internet offers is either benign or authentically useful. The right information sells products, and many businesses, including newspapers, take advantage of the opportunities.

However, the Internet raises many obvious questions about what kinds of products should have virtually unrestricted access to the personal computer marketplace.

Gambling, to no one’s surprise, is becoming increasingly available as an Internet option. Some are only make believe, so far; it’s a kind of pretend game that merely imitates the real thing. Just ahead, however, is lots of at home gambling living room, child’s room, kitchen. Place your bets wherever the computer’s set up.

Many people express alarm about the implications of bringing lotteries and casino betting unregulated into homes.

The U.S. House could vote this week on a bill that would make Internet, interactive gambling part of a congressionally funded and mandated study of the impact of gambling on national life. That’s a sensible provision that anticipates rather than reacts to a trend. U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker of the 1st Congressional District is among federal legislators backing the study. We hope he supports the inclusion of interactive gambling as part of the study.

People who work with gambling addicts also express deep concern about making gambling a household activity.

However, the roadblock that stops or at least slows gambling’s full-blown Internet presence may be the federal government and an eventual interpretation of the Interstate Wire Act of 1961. That act bars interstate gambling using telephone lines. The U.S. Department of Justice, the National Association of Attorneys General and the North American Gaming Regulators Association all are working on that project. The issue is made more complex because some Internet gambling operations originate from places like the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas in the Caribbean. Those places obviously are outside American jurisdiction.

It’s possible Congress could consider legislation making interstate Internet gambling illegal if it is illegal in the bettor’s state.

Mississippi’s legislators, increasingly familiar with the social costs of legalized gambling, would do the state a service to fully review the Internet gambling issue and be prepared to act to limit it during the 1997 session.

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