Betting on Freedom
In a major ruling impacting states throughout the country, the Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports gambling, and I for one couldn’t be happier. Previously, sports gambling was illegal everywhere in the United States, except for Nevada.
What this new ruling means is that individual states can now make the decision whether or not to allow sports gambling. Numerous states, such as neighboring Mississippi, have already legalized sports betting in anticipation of this ruling. It is worth noting that the three votes to uphold the ban on sports gambling were all from liberal members of the Supreme Court, while conservative justices voted unanimously to strike down the ban and return control back to the states.
From a free market perspective, this was the correct decision by the Supreme Court for a number of reasons. Here are a few of my thoughts as to why:
-The first and most obvious reason that something like gambling should not be outlawed nationally is because it is a federalism issue. Conservatives and libertarians believe that as many decisions as possible should be left up to state and local governments, and this ruling gives Tennessee the right to decide whether or not to legalize sports betting. Your personal feelings on the legality of sports betting in Tennessee are irrelevant in this ruling; it is about the fact that it should be up to our state to decide that and not the federal government.
-Opponents of legalization say that gambling on sports is morally wrong and feeds on poor people who don’t have the money to gamble. I completely understand that line of thinking. But, if gambling is such a morally corrupt practice, then why do we allow the state government to essentially run a casino in the form of the lottery? If a person does not believe sports betting should be legal in Tennessee, then for the sake of consistency, we need to get rid of the lottery system.
-I don’t believe the government should legislate morality, especially when it doesn’t directly impact others. Sure, gambling can indirectly affect a family, say, when a father spends all of his family’s money on gambling. That’s an unbelievably sad situation, but it isn’t the government’s job to determine how this man spends his money. He could have just as easily misspent the same amount of money on alcohol, cigarettes, or a personal vacation, and the government would have no say over that. Unless we are willing to make everything that could possibly lead to irresponsible spending illegal, which would include Utah Jazz basketball and Wendy’s Baconator for me, we should not pick and choose what potentially negative activities or products should be legal.
-If Tennessee does legalize sports betting, let’s not overtax it like we do with other activities. When you tax something at a ridiculously high rate, it means that people will go to the black market—or in this case, online gambling websites based in other countries—to spend their money. If I could bet $20 on a team and win $20, I would much rather make that bet than bet $20 on a team to win $15, which is exactly what overtaxing sports betting would do. As we see in every other major industry, increased taxes are always passed down to the consumer, which in most cases means less money in tax revenue.
While it is unlikely Tennessee will legalize sports betting in the next five years, this is a big issue that will keep coming up as more and more states legalize it. And regardless of your opinion on sports gambling, at least now the decision will be made by the right people—our state leaders—rather than the federal government.