The Governor's Gambling Gambit and Why it's a Bad Idea

May 21, 2014

If there’s one thing the Family Research Council and the Poker Player Alliance agree on it’s that a state by state patchwork of online gambling laws and regulations serves no one. In the words of their National Director, John Pappas, “There needs to be some sort of national standard.”

We agree. That’s why FRC supports legislation that would restore the decade’s old prohibition of online gambling nationwide known as the Wire Act. And that’s why it’s confusing when the National Governors Association releases a letter as it did earlier this week saying it opposes a national online gambling ban because it “challenges the federal-state relationship” and interferes with state’s ability to bring their own bureaucratic brand of regulations to online gambling vendors within their borders.

Both sides of the debate (but apparently not the governor’s association) understand a patchwork won’t work. The internet does not reside in a state nor does it respect state’s laws or borders. Tenth Amendment arguments for protecting state’s rights may sound conservative but in situations like this they help no one.  It is just as valid to argue a national prohibition protects state’s rights in preventing gambling.

Indeed, Governors Haley (SC), Scott (FL), Jindal (LA), Pence (IN) and Perry (TX) have come out in opposition to their own Governor’s association on this issue. They equally want to protect their state’s interest in prohibiting online gambling. Add to that the Attorneys General of 15 states and Guam who have already signed a letter in support of reinstating the Wire Act for this purpose.

It’s not only the internet that has revolutionized internet gaming, it’s the near ubiquitous use of tablets and smart devices, items that we carry around everywhere that have the ability to function as virtual casinos that have become the real game changer. Legalizing online gambling on every hand held device would unleash near unfettered access to gambling on untold numbers of vulnerable Americans, including the elderly, the young and struggling problem gamblers.

This alone is more important than a faux state’s rights argument. It’s upsetting that a Governor like Governor Bentley of Alabama, who claims he is personally opposed to gambling for religious reasons, would sign onto a letter that only weakens his position the positions of other likeminded governors.