Letter: Congress must remove online gambling loophole
A central part of Gov. Maggie Hassan’s 2012 campaign was expanding gambling in New Hampshire. The Legislature, for its part, let Hassan’s plan die, spurring Hassan to criticize the (bipartisan) Legislature and create a special commission to work out the regulatory hurdles.
In a reversal of a 50-year precedent, the Department of Justice ruled that the Wire Act of 1961 did not prevent state lotteries from selling tickets online. In fact, the Justice Department said, states could go beyond selling lottery tickets online and open internet-based “casinos” including virtual table games – blackjack, roulette, etc. – and slots, all under the umbrella of the state lottery. This “state lottery” exemption also gives Hassan a new path to bring casino-style gambling to New Hampshire and repair the holes left in her budget by the Legislature’s refusal to approve a brick-and-mortar casino.
Only Congress can reverse the administration’s ill-conceived decision and reinstate the bipartisan interpretation of the Wire Act that stood for more than 50 years. Sen. Kelly Ayotte raises important questions – as do other opponents of state-sponsored online gambling. But, the debate should also raise a broader issue: Why are states trying to get a quick revenue “hit” from widespread gambling instead of making long-term and substantial structural changes? Like an addict, state governments are looking for an easy fix when the issue underneath the surface is much deeper and more complex.