The National Conference of State Legislators is the latest group to publicly state its opposition to the attempt to restore the Interstate Wire Act of 1961 with an update to outlaw all Internet gambling, including that which has already been legalized in three states. The group is staunchly opposed to the idea that a federal law may stand in the way of states’ rights and the ability of each state to decide on an online gambling path of their own choosing.
The letter comes in response to the recent introduction of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act bill to Congress, which is sponsored by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in the House. The NCSL opposition adds to a growing list of those who object to the Sheldon Adelson-funded legislation, a list that includes the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) thus far.
The Anti-Ban Argument
The NCSL sent a letter to the leadership in the US Congress and copied all members, and it was signed by the organization, represented by State Senators Bruce Starr of Oregon and Debbie Smith of Nevada, the NCSL President and President-elect, respectively. In a straightforward letter opposing the Graham/Chaffetz efforts, it states, in part: “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 customers. The attempt to enact a wholesale prohibition of online gambling with the Restoration of America’s Wire Act is merely a solution seeking a problem.”
The group points out that the online gambling ventures of New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware are successful, while also mentioning that states like Utah have specifically outlawed Internet gaming in their states. Its letter goes on to expressly point out that states’ rights must be respected for this issue, and not be overtaken by a “congressional mandate.”
It is also important to point out that the NCSL also spoke out against efforts in recent years to legalize online poker on the federal level. The group believed that the 2011 US Department of Justice Wire Act decision “provided states with the authority to determine if they want to legalize intra-state online gambling,” adding that any effort by Congress to “preempt state authority over Internet gaming” was unnecessary and overstepping its bounds.
Influence of NCSL
The longstanding battle in America over states’ rights versus federal laws prompted many state legislators to get together in 1975 and launch the NCSL. It was launched as a tool to strengthen state legislatures and give lawmakers support and resources to handle serious issues on a state level. They claimed that the federal government oversight of states’ activities is costly and, in most cases, unwarranted. The NCSL has a mission statement that includes improving the quality and effectiveness of state legislatures, promoting policy innovation and communication, and ensuring that states have a “strong, cohesive” voice in the federal system. It boasts of a bipartisan and unbiased purpose.
In addition to its stance on Internet gambling, the NCSL has also offered opinions on issues like the Toxic Substances Control Act, water infrastructure issues, and Internet sales taxes. Image: Caption: NCLS represents state legislators across the country.