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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.



Legacy Comments1

I recently read a report showing the state of NH is in 5th place for revenue generated by "vice". NH started the state-run lottery and has since added a multitude of other ways to gamble at your local convenience store. You can stop along the Interstate highway and dozens of other places and buy your booze. NH has lowered the cigarette tax to promote more smoking - a fine idea, huh? But NH says no to casino income. It's hard to understand what 40 out of 50 states have found OK is "bad" for New Hampshire. But then NH obviously has expertise in knowing what is "bad" for folks.

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