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Opinion: SCOTUS Decision on Gambling Good for States

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Copyright 2018 The Arizona Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

 

The Supreme Court's recent decision to overturn a federal law that banned sports betting in all states except Nevada is a win for the Constitution, plain and simple.

The court rightly returned the authority to individual states that had been usurped by Congress's 1992 law "regulating" the commerce of gambling.

A recent poll showed that Arizonans are open to the idea of being able to wager money on professional and college sports events legally, and Arizona legislatures seem intent on pursuing this new opportunity to raise revenues from the industry.

Whether or not this is a good thing for our state remains an open question, but one thing is certain -- it is ours to make.

In the ruling handed down nearly three weeks ago, the justices declared, "Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own."

"Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not."

If the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) had actually been written properly, it would have established regulatory rules governing any aspects of sports gambling related to interstate commerce, an authority Congress has been granted by the Constitution.

Instead, Congress placed a blanket ban on sports betting, except for Nevada -- one wonders who benefited from that deal -- and in so doing not only acted unconstitutionally but took away the ability of states to decide for themselves on the issue.

Our nation's supreme law is the Constitution, and it is frustrating when members of Congress -- those elected to pass laws on our behalf that are in keeping with Constitution --willfully violate their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution! How much revenue was lost to states that may have wanted to pursue establishing a means to regulate gaming in their states?

For nearly 26 years, Nevada has been the only state allowed to offer a full menu of sports betting options. A record $4.8 billion was wagered at Nevada sportsbooks in 2017. One state was awarded a huge economic investment at the expense of those living elsewhere. These numbers do not even come close to counting all the under-the-table (illicit) gambling that takes place annually across the country.

Gov. Doug Ducey and his team are already looking into how they might expand sports betting here through existing frameworks of gambling, such as horse tracks, casinos, etc. According to a new statewide survey last week from First Strategic, a majority of Arizonans said they are likely to support legalized sports wagering and a supermajority, 67 percent, support legal and regulated sports betting if a portion of the potentially millions of dollars to the state could be directed toward education, road improvements and other important resources.

Personally, I have a healthy dose of skepticism regarding any idea originating from politicians that promises to "help the kids and fix the roads." Also, there remain serious social concerns related to allowing such expansion of and, free and open access to, sports gambling. Studies from the United Kingdom have shown that criminal behavior, such as theft, among adolescent gamblers can be pronounced. Then there is the problem of dealing with pathological gamblers.

The social cost of gambling to a society is real. However, there is no question that legalized gambling has brought economic benefits to some communities. The important issue, from a public policy cost-benefit perspective, is which is larger and by how much.

These are questions that the states can and should individually wrestle with and Congress can come along to assist with interstate commerce regulation if it wishes, just as the founders of this nation intended.

 

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June 3, 2018
 
 
 

 

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