News

Online gambling and state lotteries should be left up to the states and not Congress

August 8, 2014

By Jeffrey R. Anderson, Stephen Martino and Charles McIntyre

WASHINGTON – From public education to increasing economic development to promoting health and public wellness to funding programs for veterans and senior citizens, state lotteries across the country have contributed billions of dollars to make our states and communities better.

In 2013 alone, the nation’s 44 state lotteries raised more than $20 billion for good causes. This means more teachers in the classroom, enhanced public services and more vibrant communities.

Because of the important role state lotteries play in investing in our communities – and our states’ futures – we are concerned with the recent efforts in Congress to pass a nationwide ban on Internet gambling and lottery sales.

We firmly believe that all decisions about gambling should continue to be left to each individual state. It should be at their discretion what games, if any at all, are offered and through what manner they are delivered.

Some of the undersigned lottery states have no intention of offering expanded gambling, but we are united in our belief that this is not and should not be a federal “one size fits all” decision.

For Congress to pass a sweeping nationwide ban would be a devastating blow not only to lotteries but to everyone impacted by their contributions.

A recent analysis shows that if this ban, which includes major, unintended consequences to long-standing lottery business practices, should pass, states could lose up to $5.5 billion annually.

What would that mean in practical terms? It would mean less money for schools and fewer teachers. Fewer police officers on the street. Less care for seniors. Fewer services for veterans. Its inevitable consequence would be some states losing out on much-needed revenue to provide the services their citizens need and have come to expect.

It also would be a direct assault on states’ rights. Since 1964 with the founding of the first modern state lottery in New Hampshire, states have effectively, safely and responsibly operated lotteries. They have ensured transparency and promoted fair play.

Should some states choose to employ Internet gambling or lottery sales, the same extensive safeguards and high standards would be put into place. But it’s a choice that each state should have the option to make.

Modern public policy regarding casino gambling and lotteries has been governed by the sensibilities of the states. Efforts by some members of Congress to substitute their judgment for those of the states on Internet gambling and lottery policy should be rejected.

The proposed federal ban on all Internet gambling that also contemplates sweeping changes to long-standing lottery business practices would hurt those who benefit from the good causes lotteries support, weakening our communities and their futures.

ABOUT THE WRITERS

Jeffrey R. Anderson is the director of the Idaho Lottery, Stephen Martino is the director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, and Charles McIntyre is the executive director of the New Hampshire Lottery. Readers may write them at 700 13th Street NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005.

This essay is available to McClatchy-Tribune News Service subscribers. McClatchy-Tribune did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy-Tribune or its editors.