As I noted on Tuesday, supporters of a new federal ban on Internet gambling claim they are defending federalism, even though the bill would override the policy choices of states that decide to allow online betting. The sponsors even managed to enlist Texas Gov. Rick Perry, an avowed defender of the 10th Amendment, to certify that prohibiting online gambling throughout the country is what the Framers would have wanted. The National Conference of State Legislatures sees things differently. In a letter they sent to members of Congress yesterday, the organization's president and president-elect complain that the ban, which was instigated by casino magnate and GOP benefactor Sheldon Adelson as a way of forestalling online competition, intrudes on the prerogatives of state legislators:
We write to express our strong opposition to the Restoration of America's Wire Act, and urge you to respect the sovereignty of states to decide whether or not to allow gambling, and in particular online gambling….
States have proven that they are effective regulators of the gambling industry and the proponents of this legislation fail to make a case that we have been negligent in our responsibilities to the industry and consumers….
Since the 2011 Department of Justice opinion clarifying the scope of the Wire Act, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey and the U.S. Virgin Islands have legalized some form of online gambling within their state, while Utah and Maine have acted to forbid such activity. Many more states are considering bills that would authorize, expand or restrict Internet gambling as well. This is the way it should work, each state making the decision that is best suited to the desires of its residents and not through a congressional mandate.
It's an argument that Rick Perry ought to understand, since he has made it himself.
On a side note, the bill's backers really should fix its name—not just because it's misleading but because it makes no sense. What, exactly, is "America's Wire," and why should we want to restore it?