Libertarian groups slam online gambling ban

A coalition of libertarian groups have said a new bill to ban online gambling would pave the path for more government control over the Internet.

The bill “is an inappropriate and unnecessary use of federal powers that infringes on the rights of individuals and states,” a coalition of ten libertarian groups said in a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on Monday.

The bill to ban most online gambling for money was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) earlier this year. It would reverse a 2011 Justice Department ruling that reintepreted the Wire Act to allow online gambling.
Since that ruling, states have moved forward with efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling within their borders. Currently, Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey allow online gambling, and a handful of other states — including California — are looking to do the same.

When introducing their bill, Graham and Chaffetz said the decision to allow online gambling should go through Congress, rather than take place unilaterally within the administration.

The letter from libertarian groups — including FreedomWorks, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and R Street — called the bill from Graham and Chaffetz “a broad overreach by the federal government over matters traditionally reserved for the states.”

A ban will push the inevitable onling gambling to the black market “where crime can flourish with little oversight” and consumers have little to no protection from predatory behavior,” the letter said.

The libertarian groups also criticized the bill for “setting a troubling precedent and providing fodder to those who would like to see increased Internet regulation in the future.”

“This bill allows the federal government to take a heavy hand in regulating the Internet, opening the door for increased Internet regulation in the future,” the letter said.

The groups thanked recipients — House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) — “for standing against this government overreach and preserving the principles of federalism and free-market competition that underscore American democracy.”