Riposte to Detroit news article on Michigan online gambling legalisation

News on 9 May 2018

In a op-ed piece in the Detroit News this week, Andrew Quinlan, co-founder and president of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, challenges an earlier article in the newspaper criticising Michigan state moves to legalise online gambling and quoting health officials who warned of the dangers to minors, citing statistics from the UK Gambling Commission.

They took aim at Rep. Brandt Iden’s bill HB4926, which has been making committee stage progress recently, and Quinlan responds by pointing out the tax benefits and multiple safeguards of regulated and licensed online gambling and the dangers of prohibitions that merely encourage offshore operators to offer their products illegally to US punters.

And he asserts: “These arguments also frequently serve to obscure who stands to gain from sinking the (legalisation) effort. If they succeed in stopping legalization, the only beneficiary will be competing casino interests”….and he goes further, reminding readers of the determined efforts to quash US online gambling by land casino multi-billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Addressing the UK Gambling Commission statistics on underage gambling and their use in the US context by the health official in the earlier narrative, Quinlan comments:

“There are two flaws with this argument. First, the U.K. is not the United States. Regulatory and legal systems differ between nations and so their experience is not necessarily indicative of our own. More importantly, the alternative to legal, regulated online gaming is not a complete absence of gambling, but rather a proliferation of illegal sites typically hosted overseas and untouchable by U.S. law.

“The failure to account for the increased dangers posed by illicit black markets is why prohibition never solves social problems caused by irresponsible human behavior. While gambling to excess is a problem for some, the vast majority play responsibly and should not be punished for the indiscretions of a few.”

He goes on to point out that while so far only a handful of US states have legalised online gaming, many more are on their way to doing so, saying: “There is a growing recognition that legalization both provides better safeguards against problem gambling and prevents tax revenues from traveling out of state.”

Quinlan suggests that there is also a pattern to the opposition in each state, which takes its cues from a front-group funded by billionaire Las Vegas casino owner Adelson, but points out that it is worth noting that no evidence from the other states with legal online gaming justifies a moral panic over the welfare of children.

He also comments that Adelson lobbyists have been trying to mobilise federal action overriding the rights of US states to make their own gambling laws, but opines that despite these efforts national momentum remains on the side of legalisation.

“We shouldn’t let our fears be exploited just so one powerful special interest doesn’t have to innovate and adapt an old business model to changing times,” Quinlan concludes.

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