NCLS supports ‘State Sovereignty’ of Online Poker laws

In April of this year, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCLS) authored a letter to the members of the House of Representative and the US Senate in which they spoke out against the possibility of a federally imposed blanket ban of online gambling. The letter was instigated by the introduction of the Sheldon Adelson-backed Restoration of America’s Wire Act, which was proposed on both federal levels by Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah early this year. Last month, the NCLS fortified its stance against a federal online poker/casino ban with an officially approved resolution.

The original letter indicated, “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 consumers. This attempt to enact a wholesale prohibition of online gambling with the Restoration of America’s Wire Act is merely a solution seeking a problem.”

While the newly approved resolution does not exactly support online gambling, it does urge the federal government to leave such regulatory matters in the hands of individual states. Those that wish to regulate online poker and casino gambling should have the right to do so on their own terms, while those who don’t wish to regulate iGaming should have the option of prohibiting the activity.

Entitled State Sovereignty in Online Gaming, the NCLS resolution says, “the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) believes the federal government must respect the sovereignty of states to allow or to prohibit Internet gambling by its residents.”

The document then references the US DOJ’s former ruling that online poker and casino gambling is not illegal by the definitions of the Federal Wire Act of 1961, which only prohibits online sports betting. “Whereas, the 2011 ruling by the United States Justice Department on the Federal Wire Act of 1961, 18 U.S.C. §1084, clarifies that intra-state online gambling is lawful. Any effort by Congress or the administration to reverse this ruling is preemptive and diminishes the flexibility of state legislatures to be innovative and responsive to the unique needs of the residents of each state”.

Based on those statements, the group resolved, “that NCSL requests Congress consider the perspective of the states as it examines this issue and asks that it involve state legislators in any federal efforts that seek to reform the regulation of online gaming. NCSL strongly opposes any effort by the federal government to overturn the Justice Department’s ruling or consideration of legislation overruling state authority by legalizing or regulating gambling at the federal level. NCSL also requests that federal lawmakers be respectful of state legislatures that prohibit online gaming or other forms of gaming within their state.”

Essentially, the NCLS wants the regulation of online gambling to remain in the hands of individual states, as it does now. If the US government wishes to impose federal regulations, they should not be geared towards a nation-wide ban of online poker and casino gambling. If anything, they should be geared towards a nation-wide set of regulatory guidelines that continue to give states the right to choose, yay or nay, whether an iGaming market is a suitable option for their territorial jurisdiction.

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