While there are plenty of political issues in which battles take place largely along partisan lines, gambling has rarely been one of them. Some regions are heavily pro-gaming, while others are likely never to consider it. Republicans are split between those who see gambling as an issue of personal freedom and others who look at the industry as an immoral vice, while Democrats often battle over whether the revenues from gaming outweigh the social costs.
That’s why it was clear from the beginning that Sheldon Adelson‘s quest to outlaw online gambling in the United States would run into opposition not only from across the aisle, but also from some groups that generally ally themselves with the GOP. It was even more predictable that much of that opposition would come from libertarian organizations that rarely come out in favor of expanding the powers of the federal government.
Ten such groups signed their names to a letter this week opposing the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, or H.R. 4301. The bill was sent to the leaders of the Judiciary Committees in both houses: Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and John Conyers (D-MI) the House of Representatives, as well as Patrick Leahy (D-VA) and (R-IA) in the Senate.
“The legislation is a broad overreach by the federal government over matters traditionally reserved for the states,” the letter stated. “H.R. 4301 will reverse current law in many states and drastically increase the federal government’s regulatory power.”
The letter pointed out the ideological concerns the groups had with the legislation. And while other issues weren’t explicitly mentioned, hot button topics like net neutrality appeared to be on the minds of those who signed the statement as well.
“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 stated. “By banning a select form of Internet commerce, the federal government is setting a troubling precedent and providing fodder to those who would like to see increased Internet regulation in the future.”
The authors also made a point that has been echoed by many opponents: the fact that banning online gambling won’t stop people from playing Internet poker, but will send them to more dangerous and entirely unregulated sites.
“As we have seen in the past, a ban will not stop online gambling,” they wrote. “Prohibiting states from legalizing and regulating the practice only ensures that it will be pushed back into the shadows where crime can flourish with little oversight. In this black market, where virtually all sites are operated from abroad, consumers have little to no protection from predatory behavior.”
The individuals signing off on the statement included leaders of some of the most prominent libertarian groups in the United States. Notables such as FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe and David Williams of the Taxpayer Protection Alliance were among ten groups that showed support for the letter.
These groups also pointed out that because the bill didn’t ban every form of online gambling activity — leaving room for states to still allow horse racing bets and some lottery activities to take place online — it meant that the government was favoring some groups over others for arbitrary reasons.
“This amounts to the federal government picking winners and losers — choosing select industries or private-sector businesses to succeed at the expense of others, which is at odds with free-market competition,” they wrote.