Be Weary of Politicians With a Sudden Change of Heart


I was quite disappointed in 2006 when Republicans slipped the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act into the unrelated SAFE Port Act (yet that isn’t stopping them from hypocritically attacking others for possibly using the same method to undo it), thus passing the liberty-reducing legislation without significant notice at the time. Government has no business reaching into my computer and telling me what I can spend my money on, and Republicans really ought to know better. Such legislative moralizing only legitimizes the power of government to force people to behave a certain way, a power which Democrats in turn exploit to control ever other aspect of my life (how can conservatives argue effectively against prohibitions on smoking or eating fatty foods if they turn around and support the very same authority in other instances?) .

It’s fine to be opposed to gambling. What’s not fine is using government to impose your opposition on everyone else. If you think people shouldn’t gamble, exercise your first amendment rights and try to persuade them. I recognize that I am not in the majority in conservative circles on this issue (though not for long, I’d say, based on the apparent differences between younger and older conservatives on the issue), but as far as I’m concerned, using the force of government in this situation is a violation of conservative principle.

Long story short, it’s a bad bill that ought to be overturned.

With that said, recent news offers an important lesson: how something is done can be just as important as whether it should be done.

Harry Reid has been consistently opposed to ending the online gambling prohibition, but not for any principled reason. He simply didn’t want the casinos in his state to face the competition. Now he’s singing a different tune.

Today Harry Reid wants to use the lame-duck session to pass legislation undoing the ban.:  I should be thrilled, right? A long time opponent has seen the light! But I’m not, and he hasn’t. You see, Harry Reid wants to make internet gambling legal, but will only offer initial licenses to “to casinos and racetrack operators that have been in businesses at least five years.” The best and most popular online poker sites, however, are not affiliated with existing casinos. Harry Reid wants to put them out of business, and ensure his buddies in Nevada get a critical first shot in establishing themselves in the legal online poker business first.

This is a cynical payoff to a business which was instrumental in getting Reid reelected, and he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.

I believe in promoting freedom, including the freedom to do something which might even harm myself. But this isn’t how it should be done. This is crony capitalism under the guise of promoting freedom. I’m not falling for it.

Brian Garst regularly blogs at Conservative Compendium.

Brian Garst

Brian Garst

Brian Garst is the Director of Government Affairs for the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, a non-profit think tank dedicated to preserving tax competition and free markets. He also blogs at BrianGarst.com.


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