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National Governors Association opposes US online gaming prohibition

20th May 2014 8:11 am GMT

The National Governors Association (NGA), the bipartisan organization whose members are the governors of 55 states, territories and commonwealths in the US, has voiced its opposition to a federal ban on online gaming and online lottery sales, arguing that it challenges the federal-state relationship.

In a letter earlier this month to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the NGA set out its opposition to federal gaming legislation, focusing on states’ rights to autonomy.

The letter was signed by Republican Alabama governor Robert Bentley, chair of the NGA’s economic development and commerce committee and vice chair, Democratic West Virginia governor Earl Ray Tomblin.

The NGA pointed out that gambling had traditionally been “an issue that has been addressed by the states.”

“Regardless of whether governors are in favour of offering gaming – through whatever form – within their own states, decisions at a federal level that affect state regulatory authority should not be made unilaterally without state input,” the letter read.

It said that a “strong, cooperative relationship” between the states and federal government was vital to serve the interests of all citizens.

Founded in 1908, the NGA is a collective voice of the nation's governors and one of WAshington DC's most respected public policy organizations. Its members are the governors of the 55 states, territories and commonwealths.

Meanwhile, the Fraternal Order of Police, an organisation representing 35,000 law enforcement officers in the US, also publicly aired its opposition to a federal ban on iGaming, centred around the difficulties of enforcement.

In a letter to Robert Goodlatte, chairman of the committee on the judiciary in the House of Representatives and the committee’s ranking member John Conyers, FOP national president Chuck Canterbury urged Congress to "heed the law enforcement community with respect to recent proposals to prohibit online gaming, especially in states that have already taken measures to regulate this activity."

“We cannot ban our way out of this problem as this would simply drive online gaming further and further underground and put more and more people at risk,” the letter said.

It warned that the black market would offer no consumer protections, as an offshore unlicensed sector would increase the risk of identity theft, fraud and other criminal acts.

“There is also evidence that these gaming sites launder money for organised crime and help to finance terrorist networks,” the letter continued. “We know that these overseas gaming sites process billions of dollars every year, creating a breeding ground for transnational criminal organisations.”

The FOP also noted that with three states having already launched online gaming, US Congress would be undermining Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware’s efforts to offer their citizens a regulated and secure system by enacting a federal ban.

“The FOP wants to protect our citizens and the best way to do this is to drive black market online gaming into the light and scrutiny of a regulated system that is safe, fun and fair,” the letter explained.

Sheldon Adelson’s Campaign to Stop Internet Gambling has come in from criticism from a growing number of groups across the political spectrum, with the FOP originally stating its opposition in March this year.

The North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries (NASPL) and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) have both warned that a federal ban would stunt the growth of lotteries, while New Jersey’s legislators have also attacked the campaign.

In April, New Jersey senator Raymond Lesniak said that the US Congress had “no place implementing an irresponsible, nationwide ban on online gaming, and they certainly have no place telling states like New Jersey that have already implemented successful programs to shut them down.”

Libertarian group the Taxpayers Protection Alliance also warned that a federal ban would amount to internet censorship.

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