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States Rush to Legalize Sports Betting & Expand Gambling for Revenue

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With the melt down of the global economy over the past 2 years, multi-national brokerage firms and trusted financial institutions bore the brunt of accusations of gambling away the financial health and futures of investors, primarily through the sale of toxic mortgages with credit default swaps as the vehicle in doing so.

Yet, it is the mainstreaming of gambling on many levels that has created a culture whereby it has become an acceptable norm for not only corporations but governments in the United States, on both the federal and state levels, to literally invest in the gambling industry, with the recession as the excuse for its necessity.

Yet, for years prior to the current recession, brokerage firms such as Goldman Sachs & Co., Merrill Lynch & Co. and Fidelity Investments were already investing their clients' stocks and mutual fund portfolios, in financing offshore casinos.

The question remains as to whether they skirted U.S. federal law, which prohibits offshore online gambling for Americans, as well as to whether they made reliable investments on behalf of their clients, many of whom remain unaware that such financial instruments are involved in such volatile industries. So, Wall Street was already in on the game.

Fast forward to 2010, where many U.S. states are on the precipice of bankruptcy and are desperate for that magic bullet to increase tax revenues without continually cutting services for their already over-taxed residents. And to that end, many state governors and state legislators are clamoring to push through laws in anticipation of overturning the federal law in place, prohibiting sports betting on both professional and amateur sports, otherwise known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (28 U.S.C. 3701) (PASPA).

To wit, the state legislature of New Jersey passed State Resolution No. 19 on January 12, 2010, which authorizes its President of the Senate to "take legal action concerning certain federal legislation prohibiting sports betting." It would repeal the federal ban on sports betting, in all other U.S. states, with the exception of Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana, already permitted to offer parlay-type sports betting. Nevada, however, exclusively enjoys all types of sports betting, statewide, on any professional or amateur sports games, in any capacity.

Basically, New Jersey, and specifically Senator Raymond Lesniak, who originally launched a lawsuit on his own in March 2009 against the federal government, claims that the 1992 law violates the 10th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, in that "It establishes a selective prohibition on sports betting in the U.S." The argument is that it violates the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution by regulating a matter that is reserved to the States. And that it violates the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution by being unconstitutionally discriminatory against the Plaintiffs and the people of the State of New Jersey.

Lesniak's case presently resides in the U.S District Court, District of New Jersey, seeking declaratory relief. But the upshot is that New Jersey believes that it "Would benefit significantly from lifting the federal ban and legalizing sports betting in this state, as increased revenues would be generated and numerous jobs would be created for New Jersey residents as a result of sports betting activities at Atlantic City casinos and New Jersey's racetracks, further enhancing tourism and economic growth," according to Resolution No. 19.

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Prior to PASPA, the Wire Act was enacted in 1961. It was intended exclusively for prohibiting the placement of bets by telephone to bookmakers for sporting events, and was largely put in place by then U.S. Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy, in order to discourage organized crime and bookmaking. But gaming and its technology has come light years since 1961, and it would appear that the Wire Act's shelf life has thus expired.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Congress, House Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has promoted a federal resolution to legalize and regulate the internet gambling industry in the U.S. (H.R. 2667). That proposal falls on the heels of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA). It proscribes that offshore internet gambling is a violation of federal law.

Furthermore, legislation was passed by the New Jersey legislature in its state Senate to amend the New Jersey State Constitution, allowing legalized sports betting, which the New Jersey voters would ultimately vote on in a referendum as early November 2010.

But this constant back and forth between drafting new law and upholding existing legislation on a federal level to regulate gaming, runs in direct conflict with those states introducing new laws, geared to open up the flood gates for a variety of legalized gaming platforms, including sports betting.

In addition, the National Indian Gaming Association, with respect to state Indian gaming contracts, originally authorized by the U.S. federal government, presents other conflicts on both state and federal levels.

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Therefore, with the rights of gamblers continually in flux, the question must be asked what about the rights of non-gamblers and the resources that will be expended towards the downside that accompanies a gambling culture, upon which states will necessarily become dependent?

In the state of Nevada alone, with unemployment approaching 23%, for those presently receiving extended unemployment benefits as well as those no longer receiving such benefits, it is the gaming industry specifically that is responsible for such a jobs freefall which accompanies a nearly $1 billion state budget shortfall. Add to that the highest mortgage foreclosure rates in the entire U.S. and there arises a recipe for disaster.

And as gaming drives all other industry including construction, conventions and tourism, primarily in Las Vegas, it would make one wonder what other state officials are thinking when gaming revenues in Las Vegas went down over 20% between 2008 and 2009, and it has yet to come out of its funk.

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Diane M. Grassi is an investigative journalist and reporter providing topical and in-depth articles and analysis on U.S. public policy and governmental affairs, including key federal and state legislation as well as court decisions relative to the (more...)
 

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