The Constitutional Case For Legal Sports Betting in The US

Posted by David Stone on September 9, 2011 under Gaming | Be the First to Comment

The Federal ban on sports betting has been blasted by anyone who knows anything about the subject for a number of different reasons. Though the US professional leagues suggest that sports betting threatens the integrity of their games, the opposite is the case. This is important because there would still be no shortage of outlets for college sport wagering, be it offshore or with your local illegal bookmaker. The professional bookmaking industry is usually where any type of compromised or fixed game is discovered. Ultimately, the true injustice of banning sports betting lies in its contempt for the Constitution.

Unfortunately, the Congress of the United States has shown very little respect for the Constitution in recent years. Were it to abide strictly by the role outlined for it by the founding fathers, the Legislative Branch of our government would have to relinquish any number of its powers in a variety of areas. The primary problem with our Congress is that it has increasingly become a collection of career politicians rather than a body representative of its constituency. As a result, the overriding concern of the average Senator or Congressman is increasing the power that he is able to wield, and as a result the power that his body is able to bring to bear.

The Federal prohibition of sports wagering which was enacted a few years back is of very dubious Constitutionality. Were it not for the grandfather clause, which allowed it to remain legal in jurisdictions in which it already existed, it would have certainly been struck down as unconstitutional on a number of different fronts. Ironically, the gambling industry supported this bill in the pre-Internet era.

Unfortunately, the mere fact that a proposed law or initiative is unconstitutional offers little protection for the citizenry. In fact, the concept of state sovereignty is one of the most important–and most abused–in the Constitution:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The overriding concern of the writers and framers of the Constitution was that the personal liberty of the individual not be violated by a too-powerful central government. In other words, unless the power in question has been expressly given to the Federal government by the Constitution, and/or unless it has expressly been prohibited to the states (as in the case of treaty making) it is the right of each individual state to govern themselves as they see fit. If an individual state chooses not to regulate a certain activity, it is the right of each individual citizen to make their own decision.

So, here exactly does the Constitution delegate to the Federal government the right to make policy on sports gambling? The answer is that it doesnt, and it is very questionable that they have the Constitutional authority to do so.

Sports gambling may seem a minimally important issue to some, but the erosion of liberty is an incremental danger. The danger to broader concepts of personal liberty may seem a million miles away, but with each additional law intended to protect us from this or that the Federal government becomes larger and more powerful and the rights of the sovereign states”and the individuals that comprise them”are shrinking and being weakened.

 

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