Sunday, May 28, 2006

Charity Auction for Buffett Item Promotes Online Casino

A story in Friday’s USA Today online reports that online casino placed the winning bid for a ukulele offered by Warren Buffett. The proceeds of $11,211 will benefit Children’s Hospital in Omaha.

This looks like a nice gesture by the firm, but I doubt it is charitably motivated. This Antiguan firm may well care about children in Omaha, but I would bet that this purchase is oriented toward promoting its business, which is clearly illegal in many states and arguably illegal under federal law. (Some in Congress would like to clarify this position, but oddly enough this legislation seems to languish and die – at least it has done so since 2003.)

According to the article, will put the ukulele in a traveling museum it takes around the United States, along with some of the other unusual items it has purchased in recent months. This traveling museum is a clever way to promote a business without actually “aiding and abetting” an illegal activity, which itself could give rise to criminal liability.

I doubt that Mr. Buffett, who has gone on the record as opposing gambling, did not consider the possibility that his generous gift would end up giving significant publicity to a firm of this nature - publicity that would otherwise cost a lot more than the $11,211 it bid for the item.


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