Many people have longed for regulated gambling in the US at more than just a state by state level, but they may not understand just how complex and difficult this may be to ever get put into practice.
This was one of the aims of the bills before congress spearheaded by the efforts of Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who was well known as a champion of civil liberties, and the playing of games online for money certainly falls within this category, or at least it should be seen as such.
So when Rep. Frank’s bills hit the floor, a lot of pro gambling people got excited, all the federal government has to do now they thought is to garner enough support in both houses, and the support of the President as well so that it would not be vetoed, which would still make passing of such a bill possible but more difficult, requiring a larger majority, but all this was thought to be at least possible.
While some people understood that this was really only part of the challenge of a comprehensive regulatory scheme which would allow people to gamble, play poker and/or casino games country wide, it’s far from that simple, and this is a lot bigger challenge than most people realize.
The fact that it has been very difficult to get anywhere near enough support in Congress to pass such a bill is only part of the difficulty here, but it’s been a big enough roadblock to shut the process down at the source. We can say that it’s at least good that we are having enough of a dialogue to get people to sponsor bills, which at least have some support, the words thus far have been wasted for the most part.
For whatever reasons, in spite of the widespread popularity of gambling in general, land based gambling, and the fact that only two states in the country, Hawaii and Utah, don’t have government approved as well as government run gambling, voting for bills that proactively support regulated online gambling in the United States has been very challenging.
Attitudes toward gambling do differ by state and region, with the people in some areas being much more receptive to it than others, but on the other hand people generally don’t break out the pitchforks when it comes to the lottery, and it’s their elected officials in the state they live in that both approved this and operate it.
So that alone would lead us to believe that this should not be much of a challenge at all to get federal politicians to be receptive to it, at least a majority of them. This has not been the case though, and for whatever reason, permitting online gambling is seen as being much more negative than the lottery, or even permitting land based gaming regulation.
So that’s the first hurdle to get past, having the notion of at least attempting to regulate online gambling, or to not stand in the way of state sponsored compacts, and we have quite a ways to go before that even seems possible. This is the first but not the only hurdle though.
What Federal Online Gaming Regulation Could and Could Not Do
As we know, the federal government regulates interstate commerce, and the states regulate commerce within a state. So for instance, with such things as land based gambling, where the gambling occurs within the state entirely, or with online gambling that is limited to residents of a certain state, that falls under the state’s control.
Now some people have claimed that even if online gambling is kept to people within a state, other activities such as payment processing brings it into the federal realm, and this is one of the ways that this whole thing can get complicated, meaning that if they wanted to they could disrupt payment processing through normal channels, forcing intrastate options to be required.
Now this doesn’t mean the UIGEA, which only addresses illegal gambling, would come into play, as it only addresses illegal gambling, and we’re talking about perfectly legal gambling here, so new legislation would be required, a UIGEA that included legal gambling as well, and that’s not likely, but is possible.
Now if states want to share players such as they do with a poker network, then the federal government could enact legislation to prevent this, although there’s nothing on the books right now and we already have this going on in the pact between Nevada and Delaware.
Of course you don’t need legislation to allow this, and this isn’t even necessary with casino play since casinos aren’t networked like poker is, as in looking to expand the player base by allowing players from different states to sit down at the same table.
So there’s no action required by the federal government to fully permit all the online gambling that states desire, either within their own states or teaming up with other states, as they please. This is the part that’s the most misunderstood about all this, we do not need federal legislation or regulation here, at all, to make this all happen.
The federal government doesn’t even have the power to regulate online gambling in the positive sense anyway, to force states for instance to allow their residents to gamble online should they wish, and in spite of whether the gambling in question is intrastate or not, it occurs in their state, or at least it’s recognized as such.
The Potential Benefits of Federal Involvement
So the states do have a say here, and the role of the federal government in regulated online gambling would not be that of legislator or even regulator, because they don’t have the legal power to do either, but they could serve as a facilitator and put together a common framework that states may opt into.
Even though this is also possible without the involvement of the federal government, their becoming involved would put to rest any concerns that the feds may pass laws to stand in the way of these arrangements, and they could certainly do that in theory anyway, although whether or not they would ever pass such a law remains to be seen.
While on the one hand it would certainly be beneficial to have a comprehensive regulatory system, this would be quite difficult to pull off as all the actors would have to agree.
Seeing what’s going on in California, with all the difficulty they have had to get parties to agree and to get state legislators to pass something that is suitable enough, gives us a glimpse of what we’d be up against with something involving not just one state but many states.
States that do not agree can still regulate online gambling within their state, and the federal government could not rightfully stop this even if they want to, something that some people and even some lawmakers do not fully understand.
So this is at this point nothing more than a pipe dream, but it’s one that may come true some day, although it’s not really needed.