Liberty through decentralization. That was the goal of the creators of the U.S. Constitution in 1787, which established the purpose and boundaries of the federal government. Our Founding Fathers later added the Tenth Amendment, which again emphasized the limited nature of the federal government and guaranteed that the states and its citizens had the freedom to self-govern.
Currently, a textbook example the Tenth Amendment is happening in numerous states as they consider legalizing online gambling to help boost state tax revenues. And at the same time, there are special interest groups trying to influence the federal government to overstep their authority and, in the process, deprive states of their constitutional rights.
The State of Pennsylvania is positioned to most likely become the fourth state to offer legal online poker and casino games. It’s been three months since the state’s $32 billion spending budget became law, and yet no means to fund it has been established.
There are already twelve casinos operating in the state, but they are looking to online games to help close the $2 billion shortfall in the budget. iGaming is projected to raise upwards of $100 million in operating license fees the first year alone.
Once the gaming sites get established the state can expect to increase tax revenue by more than $425 million in the first five years. The battle for online gaming has been on a rollercoaster ride for the last few months, but ultimately Pennsylvania’s governor and Congress will determine what is best for their state.
Right behind Pennsylvania, three other states are aggressively working toward legalizing online gambling. Illinois has three iGaming bills, HB0479, SB0209, and SB1531, that are up for consideration during the next two legislative sessions that run through November 9.
Meantime, Michigan’s House and Senate both have active bills related to iGaming. Michigan State Rep. Brandt Iden has stated that he is very optimistic that the bill he introduced, H4926, will pass through the house by Thanksgiving.
Then there is New Hampshire, which recently revived a shell bill, H562, that is being put up for new discussion during an executive session. If the committee decides to amend and pass it this time around, it will be eligible for a full vote by the legislature in the very near future. Just last summer the state legalized online lottery sales leading to speculation that the New Hampshire Lottery may be put in charge of iGaming once it passes.
Other states are in the beginning stages of considering legalized iGaming. However, there is currently legislation that has been being pushed at the federal level over and over again in an attempt to overshadow states’ rights. The Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) has been introduced numerous times over the last few years each time by a different Senator or Congressman that seems to have a mutually beneficial relationship with big money donor Sheldon Adelson.
As the CEO and Chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, Adelson has a vested interest in prohibiting all online gaming. It’s his competition. Unlike other brick and mortar casino corporations that have embraced the iGaming market, Adelson wants to outlaw it to force people into his casinos.
RAWA is legislation that was written by Adelson’s lobbyists and is an attempt to rewrite the Federal Wire Act of 1961. It would ban most forms of online gaming — like poker and state lotteries. RAWA benefits only Sheldon Adelson and his Casino-Resort business model and, in the process, tramples on the Tenth Amendment by removing state’s rights to set their own gaming and lottery laws.
The states don’t need the federal government to step in and make a blanket decision that will force them either to prohibit or to legalize gambling. New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware, three states that have already legalized online gambling, have had very positive results in the short period that they have been operating.
New Jersey’s iGaming tax revenue is already over $100 million and has created thousands of new jobs. And contrary to Adelson’s ongoing scare tactics, the moral fiber of the people of New Jersey is still intact as the state successfully regulates gaming. The decision to legalize gambling belongs with the individual states, not the federal government and certainly not with one very wealthy donor: It’s what Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry would have wanted.