“Do you trust the federal government?” U.S. Representative Randy Forbes of Virginia’s 4th Congressional District recently asked in a column published by the Petersburg Progress-Index.
Apparently Rep. Forbes does, despite arguing that the federal government has grown to be too vast.
Earlier this month, Forbes signed on as an original cosponsor of H.R. 707, the so-called Restoration of America’s Wire Act (more accurately known as the Federal Online Gambling Ban).
Libertarians and conservatives ought to oppose the bill — primarily sponsored by Republicans — as an affront to federalism. Multiple states have or are considering regulations of online gambling, and the federal government ought not interfere. Indeed, this is precisely why the American Conservative Union and other conservative organizations oppose the bill. As ACU Executive Director Dan Schneider recently stated,
Conservatives don’t have to agree on the value of gambling, but we should agree that it is unwise to use the brute force of the federal government to try to stop states from making their own decisions on this activity, especially if the reason for this action is to support gambling entrepreneurs in Las Vegas. Unfortunately for them, what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas; it should be up to the states to determine if they want to reject or accept Vegas.
The ACU trusts governors, including the 31 Republicans, to set the gambling regulations in each state; whether that is prohibition or regulation. The federal government does have a role in legitimate law enforcement matters, but it should not take on the added responsibility of overriding a state’s inherent police powers.
Libertarians, of course, have additional reasons to oppose legislation that interferes with both personal and economic liberty. Perhaps most worrisome, a federal ban is likely to bring about additional surveillance of Americans’ activities online. Supporters of a federal ban such as Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, desperately searching for arguments to justify their protectionism for Las Vegas casino owners, have even tried to link online gambling to terrorism. Then again, Forbes demonstrated his trust in the federal government’s mass surveillance apparatus when he voted against an amendment to stop the NSA’s bulk data collection of innocent Americans’ phone records.
A version of the Federal Online Gambling Ban did not gain traction last year, but Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson will continue pushing it. With Adelson again planning to spend significant resources in the 2016 presidential primary election, Republicans may give it more consideration in the 114th Congress.
If the bill does pick up steam, its next stop would be the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by another Virginia Republican, Bob Goodlatte of the Sixth Congressional District. Though he is not a cosponsor of the bill, Goodlatte has long pushed for prohibition of online gambling.
Virginia conservatives and libertarians should contact Goodlatte and insist he oppose this betrayal of federalism — and urge Forbes to back up his pro-liberty rhetoric with action by removing his name from the list of cosponsors.
And while doing so, Virginians should take the opportunity to urge the Congressional Delegation to take another stand for federalism by cosponsoring the Industrial Hemp Farming Act (S. 134/H.R. 525). Passage of the Industrial Hemp Farming Act would enable Virginia farmers and entrepreneurs to take full advantage of the recent hemp deregulation that passed both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly.
About the Author
Nicholas Cote is Editor-in-Chief of Future Dominion and President of Right Way Forward Virginia. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.