Kandrach: Goodlatte should listen to the people on sports betting
By Matthew Kandrach
Kandrach is the president of Consumer Action for a Strong Economy (CASE), a free-market oriented consumer advocacy organization.
Congressman Bob Goodlatte is surely going to be missed. He has earned a reputation as a solid conservative voice in Washington, one who supports law enforcement, respects states’ rights and individual liberty and champions free enterprise. Now is the time, following the announcement of his retirement at the end of his term, to cement his legacy. An overlooked but important place to start is with a failed and outdated law that concerns sports betting.
The world is a far different place than it was in 1992. Back then there was no internet beyond the cellars of university computer labs, people still paid for long-distance charges by the minute, and VCRs populated American living rooms. Technology has changed how we live, how we work and how Americans choose to spend their time and leisure.
One thing that has remained consistent during this period is PASPA’s failure to stop Americans from betting on sports. Instead, it’s merely driven sports wagering underground and overseas. It’s further redefined crime to include a common pastime of millions, while throttling legitimate enterprise and the tax revenue it could generate.
As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Goodlatte has oversight responsibility over PASPA. And with the U.S. Supreme Court set to begin considering a constitutional challenge to PASPA in December, Chairman Goodlatte would be well-served to take a look at this antiquated law as soon as possible.
The question remains for many why sports betting should remain under federal restriction in 2017. Gaming has exploded in the decades since PASPA went into effect, moving to the mainstream with Americans spending over $150 billion on wagers per year. A recent poll found that a majority of Americans favor legalized betting, as clear an indicator as any that opinions have changed and PASPA is out of step.
Certainly, a law that is out of step with the public and abets criminal enterprises is worthy of review and public hearings in Rep. Goodlatte’s committee. An open discussion on bringing wagering out into the open, where it can be properly regulated and be under the watchful eye of law enforcement is a far better option than putting our head in the sand and pretending all is well with a failed and antiquated law.
It further begs the question of why can’t states be left to determine their own rules on sports betting. As a self-identified devotee of the Constitution, Rep. Goodlatte must appreciate that federal power is limited, but PASPA is anything but. States fighting the federal ban have taken their case to the Supreme Court. Given the reality that this decision may be made for Congress by the courts, the avoidance of public hearings makes even less sense. Congress must be prepared to consider what framework comes next.
Also being ignored is the substantial economic benefit that would accrue to the states if wagering were legalized. Instead of billions of dollars going to shady operators and overseas enterprises, legalized betting could generate and support jobs, up to 150,000 according to one study, while providing billions in additional tax revenue to states and localities.
By every measure, PASPA has failed. While providing no benefit, PASPA has proven costly to our freedoms, our economy and to the rule of law. Rep. Goodlatte should listen to the people and hold hearings so the people can have their say.