Republicans’ Bad Bet

A Proposed Internet Gambling Ban Would Trample on States’ Rights and Individual Liberty—and Won’t Stop Online Gambling

bad bet

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It was unbearably hot on August 2, 1876 with the mercury reading over 90 degrees by 3:00 PM at the Nuttal & Mann’s saloon. The regulars, well into a game of five-card stud, were joined by Wild Bill Hickok, who had arrived in Deadwood, South Dakota, just two months prior. As the next hand was dealt out, local drunk Jack McCall quietly entered the saloon, approached the game unnoticed, pulled his revolver, and fired at near-point blank range into the back of Hickok’s head, killing him instantly. Before his hanging, McCall admitted that he shot Wild Bill because of a perceived slight at a card game the night before. We’ve come a long way since Wild Bill’s demise. So why do some members of Congress want to regulate online gambling as if we were still living in Wild West?

The Restoration of America’s Wire Act (H.R. 4301, S. 2159), introduced in March 2014 by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in the House and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in the Senate, would modify a 1961 sports gambling Act, instituting a de facto federal online gambling ban. This would force the three states that already have legalized, regulated, and taxed online gambling—Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey— to reverse the laws and regulations they instituted in the last year and prohibit other states from attempting to legalize the activity in the future. Not only does this heavy-handed proposal trample on state and individuals’ rights to make such decisions, it will utterly fail to stop Americans from gambling online. By pushing net gambling into a black market where players illegally gamble on foreign-owned sites, the proposal leaves them with far fewer protections than they’d have in a legal and transparent online gambling market.