Online gambling fight in need of consistency from politicians

The recent midterm elections sent a powerful message to politicians nationwide that Americans are frustrated with government intrusion into their lives. Obamacare played a central role in the elections as one in four voters said that healthcare was a top issue. Republicans have argued that Obamacare is an issue that should be left up to those at the state level and the federal government shouldn’t be mandating healthcare decisions.  Similarly, there should be an emphasis on letting people in the states decide their own future when it comes to online gambling, especially as the issue may be creeping up on Congress once again. Unfortunately, some of the same Republicans that see the threat to individual liberty on healthcare want the federal government to legislate what the states can do about online gambling. 

In early 2014 a Nevada coalition of gambling companies began pushing for legislation aiming to fix the 1961 Wire Act with a new draft bill. H.R.4301 - Restoration of America's Wire Act, introduced by Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzOvernight Energy: Obama signs chemical safety reform into law House caucus to focus on business in Latin America Freedom Caucus urges vote on impeaching IRS commissioner MORE (R-Utah) would ban online gambling at the federal level: 

Restoration of America's Wire Act - Amends provisions of the federal criminal code, commonly known as the Wire Act, to provide that the prohibition against transmission of wagering information shall apply to any bet or wager, or information assisting in the placing of any bet or wager (thus making such prohibition applicable to all types of gambling activities, including internet gambling). States that nothing in this Act shall be construed to: (1) preempt any state law prohibiting gambling; or (2) alter, limit, or extend the relationship between the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 and other federal laws currently in effect, the ability of a state licensed lottery retailer to make in-person, computer-generated retail lottery sales, or the relationship between federal laws and state charitable gaming laws.

But in reality, the legislation is nothing more than corporate welfare and crony capitalism that stifles competition, contains several special interest carve-outs, and infringes on voters at the state and local level.  

The American economy is struggling to make a comeback as job growth and wages are stagnant.  As states decide the best ways to revitalize their economies, the last thing the federal government should be doing is limiting options for states. A federal ban on online gambling would prevent states from being able to unleash the potential for economic growth that online gambling could provide.  Voters in each individual state would also have the right to reject online gambling. 

Many politicians claim that they want a smaller federal government and would prefer that voters in each state be able to retain the power to decide their own course when it comes to a number of issues. But, those that advocated for liberty for Obamacare, are nowhere to be seen.  For example, Senator Ted CruzTed CruzTrump: Rivals who don't back me shouldn't be allowed to run for office Kasich touts poll showing he does better against Clinton than Trump Two transgender candidates win primaries MORE (R-Texas), who just as recently as last week said now was the time to “repeal Obamacare” has said nothing on the issue of a federal ban on online gambling. 

Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulTrump: Rivals who don't back me shouldn't be allowed to run for office Trump hires Rand Paul's former digital director: report Trump flexes new digital muscle MORE (R-Ky.) has already stated he opposes restrictions to online gambling and believes the government should stay out of that industry, but the relative silence from those including Cruz is troubling. Certainly those individuals who have fought for reducing the power of the federal government would want to ensure that economic innovation and competition at the state level are not hindered by an outright federal ban. 

The midterm election has also brought in a new crop of elected officials who also cling to the mantle of limiting the power of the federal government. Senator-elect Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who will soon be headed to Washington, campaigned as a fighter for individual liberty. Iowa is working toward legislation for online gaming in 2015. Does their newly minted senator support giving voters in her state the power to even take the issue up for consideration? 

It will be interesting to watch which newly elected Senate and House members who campaigned on a platform of taking back power from the federal government and vesting it with voters in the states actually fight for that principle. The federal ban on online gambling is a perfect barometer with which to conduct such a test. 

On Nov. 4 voters rebuked President Obama and federal government overreach; it is time for those politicians (elected or preparing to be sworn in) to make good on their commitment to liberty and limited government. They should start by speaking up for voters in all states and allowing them to decide the best way forward when it comes to online gambling,

Iljazi is the Communications & Policy manager for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a non-profit conservative advocacy organization.

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