Tag: gambling

How Would I Amend the Constitution? End All Extra-Legal Amendments Thereto

The Fiscal Times recently asked me and a number of others, “How would you amend the Constitution?“ Here’s how the Times categorized my response:

DON’T CHANGE A THING

Several major conservative thinkers suggested that the Constitution does not need to be changed, but rather to have its principle of limited government guide both Congress and the president.

Michael Cannon at the Cato Institute noted that the Fourth Amendment protects against warrantless searches, “yet the National Security Agency tracks everybody with Congress’ tacit if not explicit consent.”

First of all, and I fear I will be explaining this to reporters for the rest of my life, I am not a conservative. I support gay marriage, cutting military spending, closing all U.S. bases in foreign nations, and ending the prohibitions on drugs, gambling, and prostitution. Of such stuff conservatives are not made.

Second, the above excerpt scarcely captures my response to the Times’ inquiry. Don’t change a thing?? Here is my response in full:

There are constitutional amendments I want to see. And yet.

Americans don’t need to amend the Constitution so much as they need politicians to honor what the Constitution already says. The Constitution creates a government of enumerated and therefore limited powers; Congress and the president routinely exceed those powers. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, particularly political speech; Congress heavily regulates and rations political speech. The Fourth Amendment protects “persons, houses, papers, and effects” from “unreasonable searches” and requires “no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause”; yet the NSA tracks everybody with Congress’ tacit if not explicit consent. The states could ratify an amendment that says, “Hey, we mean it!”; but the Constitution already contains two amendments saying that (the Ninth and Tenth). What is the point of amending the Constitution if Congress will just ignore that amendment too?

This could soon become a Very Big Problem. If Congress keeps acting like it is not bound by the Constitution, then eventually the people will conclude that they aren’t either.

That is, I don’t want to amend the Constitution so much as I want to stop politicians and bureaucrats from amending it unlawfully – i.e., without going through the Article V amendment process  – and stop the courts from rubber-stamping those extra-legal amendments. 

It would be great if, as the Times writes, the Constitution’s principle of limited government were to guide both Congress and the president. I would settle for having the plain words of the Constitution constrain Congress and the president. That constraint will have to come from the people, and federal judges.

Book ‘Em, Danno

I hope you’ve got your NCAA bracket in by now. The NCAA estimates that 35 million Americans will do so. But keep in mind: As the Washington Post notes, you’re breaking the law:

Office pools, despite the warnings of law enforcement officials, are among the country’s most popular illegal activities. The FBI estimates that roughly $2.5 billion is gambled on the NCAA tournament, and only $80 million is bet legally through Nevada sports books. A good portion of the rest takes the form of $5 or $10 entry fees to participate in a bracket-pick NCAA tournament pool.

Is this the most popular illegal activity in America? Well, the Office of National Drug Control Policy says that 104 million Americans have used marijuana, 28.5 million in the past year.

Does it make sense to criminalize peaceful activity that tens of millions of Americans enjoy? Discuss.

Giving Cops Bad Incentives to Harass Victimless Behavior

The Washington Post has an interesting report about the huge amount of money that Fairfax County spends to go after gambling. The story cites critics who ask “why law enforcement spends valuable time and money on combating sports gambling. The answer is obvious – and explicit in the story: “…police in Virginia are allowed to keep 100 percent of the assets they seize in state gambling cases.” In other words, harassing the gambling business is a profit-making endeavor for police. And it also can be deadly since cops killed an optometrist during a SWAT arrest. The Institute for Justice has a powerful video on the dangers of “policing for profit,” and Fairfax County is just one bad example of how this lures cops into misallocating resources to fight behaviors that shouldn’t even be illegal.

It’s football season, and for millions of Americans that means betting season. …It’s a crime that Fairfax County police take seriously. So seriously that in one recent gambling investigation, they spent – and lost – more than $300,000 in cash to take down a Las Vegas-based online bookie and his group of Fairfax-based associates. …Police critics have long wondered why law enforcement spends valuable time and money on combating sports gambling. …Unlike drug cases, police in Virginia are allowed to keep 100 percent of the assets they seize in state gambling cases, so other agencies or divisions receive no benefit. And the vast majority of those arrested are placed on probation. “What a waste,” said Nicholas Beltrante, founder of the Virginia Citizens Coalition for Police Accountability, a group formed earlier this year in part to combat unnecessary police spending. “The police should be utilizing their resources for more serious crimes.” Fairfax’s most notorious gambling investigation ended in disaster. In 2006, an undercover detective lost more than $5,000 while betting on NFL games with optometrist Salvatore J. Culosi – and when the detective called in a SWAT team to make the arrest, an officer shot Culosi once in the heart and killed him. …Since 2004, the squad has seized about $1 million in cash and assets annually, but some of those cases landed in federal court, where money is divided among various agencies, Schaible said. …One case from 2006, that of admitted bookmaker Kyle Peters, resulted in police seizing and keeping $566,940 from his bank accounts.

Cato Fellow Defends Your Right to Gamble

My friend and Cato media fellow Radley Balko is currently participating in an online debate on the Economist website, the motion being that “This house believes there should be no legal restrictions on gambling.”  Radley is, of course, defending the motion. The first round of arguments is up and voting (and commenting) is open.

Radley was leading by a landslide this morning, but there has been a curious development. Reports Radley:

Interesting. Support from my side went from 85% to 46% in a little over three hours, during which no new arguments were posted. Wondering if a Baptist convention just let out.

The debaters will close their arguments on Wednesday, with the winner announced Friday. Please show your support for civil liberties and for Radley by voting.

Also, the Economist had a terrific special report on gambling last week. Their leader article made a good case for legalizing online gambling in America, but curiously (for a newspaper proudly associated with the free trade cause) did not mention the compelling trade-related reasons to allow Americans to gamble freely online.

Britain’s Brown Bounces Betting Businesses

A further chapter in Britain’s economic suicide comes from Tax Notes International today (subscription only):

In a move apparently aimed at lowering their tax bills, major U.K. sports bookmakers William Hill and Ladbrokes plan to relocate their sports betting operations to Gibraltar, according to media reports.

The move by William Hill was announced on August 4 and was subsequently followed by Ladbrokes’ announcement on August 6. The moves are projected to cost the U.K. Treasury millions of pounds in tax revenue, according to an August 6 report on www.guardian.co.uk.

The departure of these sports betting firms, particularly if other sports bookmakers follow, could put the U.K.’s entire online gambling market (the largest legal betting market in the world) beyond the reach of either the Gambling Commission or the Treasury, according to media reports.

Ladbrokes CEO Christopher Bell cited “intense competitive pressure” as the main spur pushing his company offshore. “Our award winning sportsbook Ladbrokes.com is the biggest in the U.K. market but faces aggressive competition from offshore operators who hold a very significant cost advantage by operating from low tax jurisdictions. Operating from the U.K. has become unsustainable and we will relocate by the year end,” he was quoted as saying in an August 6 statement on the Ladbrokes Web site.”

The 15 percent tax on online gambling (the industry had lobbied for a 2 percent or 3 percent tax), one of Gordon Brown’s last acts as chancellor of the Exchequer, has been generally seen as an embarrassment for London, which had sought to position the U.K. regulatory approach as world leading. Instead of applying for licenses with the Gambling Commission as the laws’ drafters had hoped, members of the online gambling industry have boycotted the U.K. and headed offshore.

“The U.K. has effectively turned its back on the industry. It will now be almost impossible for a U.K.-based operator to compete with offshore business,” John Coates, chair of the Remote Gambling Association, said in a March 2007 statement. Sports betting became the last gambling subindustry to remain onshore.

Currently, the total tax faced by U.K.-based sports bookmakers includes the 15 percent profits tax, a 15 percent VAT, corporate tax, and a special 10 percent tax for horse racing betting profits. Tax rates in offshore locations such as Gibraltar, Malta, or the Isle of Man are only about 1 percent to 2 percent, according to the statement on the Ladbrokes Web site, and there is no special horse racing profits tax.”

One Step Closer to Gambling Online?

Following on from the mildly good news of a few weeks ago, Barney Frank (D, MA) has announced that he will introduce a bill tomorrow to roll back current restrictions on gambling online (the restrictions are made operative by bans on U.S. banks from processing transactions to and from gambling websites).  Although the details of the bill are yet to be released, this here article contains some good analysis.