By: Jack Inglewood
Communist theorist Leon Trotsky once said, “The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.”
Increasingly, policy in the United States seems to reflect Trotsky’s philosophy, especially when it comes to the Tenth Amendment. Politicians of all stripes seem ever more willing to toss states’ sovereignty aside and trample on the Tenth Amendment for some purported greater good.
As states push back against an oppressive federal government, big business has become particularly adept at moving Congress to trump undesirable laws passed at the state level in order to have one set of regulations instead of fifty. Others have sought to protect themselves from competition. Large insurance companies have long sought a national charter as a means of limiting competition from smaller regional companies who would be unable to attain a national charter.
Yet, rarely have interests sought to utilize a federal ban to brazenly and openly overturn state laws in order to completely eradicate an industry. If two billionaire casino owners get their way, that is exactly what will happen to online gambling.
As technology advanced and access to the Internet became the norm in the 1990s, Americans interest in Internet gambling exploded. Federal authorities scrambled to shut down this growing enterprise. The Department of Justice (DOJ) decreed Internet gambling illegal under the Federal Wire Act and Congress passed laws making bank transactions with gambling sites illegal. Of course, this only affected U.S. sites. American continued to gamble online using the countless number of foreign sites.
However, a recent DOJ directive that the law allows states to establish and operate online gaming sites within their own boundaries has spurred new growth in domestic gaming sites, and new competition for brick and mortar casinos.
Exercising their sovereign rights, New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada have all passed legislation to allow online gambling within their states. Delaware and Nevada have recently signed a compact to grant reciprocal online gambling rights to each state’s citizens. Overwhelmingly the U.S gambling industry applauds these advances, save two very wealthy casino owners.
Billionaires Sheldon Adelson of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and Steve Wynn, of Wynn Resorts are asking Congress to pass a federal ban on Internet gambling through a bill that would overturn states’ rights to legalize online gaming sites.
The two have founded and are funding an organization called The Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. As with all good ends justify the means arguments, the coalition is offering up a variety of social ills caused by Internet gaming that must be stopped with the proposed ban. It is understandably difficult for casino owners to argue against the social harms of gambling with a straight face. As a result, they have on several occasions revealed their true motives — they fear the competition will hurt their bottom line. Andrew Abboud, Senior VP at the Sands Corporation, told Congress recently that online gaming would mean the “end of the industry.”
Trampling the Tenth Amendment with a federal ban on intrastate gambling would not solve or prevent a single social ill opponents attribute to online gaming. Gambling on the Internet exists and isn’t going away. American players spend upwards of $3 billion a year gambling online on unregulated overseas sites and that number is growing.
A federal ban would, however, serve to push the United States ever deeper into the murky waters of centralized federal control for the most ignominious of reasons –cronyism. Such a ban would signal that America has fallen to a depth that it is no longer required to even pretend that the ends justify the means.