United States Gambling Laws, Possible Changes in 2018

The United States is fairly unique in terms of gambling laws due to its Constitution. The Tenth Amendment of that Constitution provides that anything that is not specifically granted Federal jurisdiction and purview falls to the states, in terms of lawmaking. That’s a paraphrase, of course.

United States Gambling laws

The Federal Government does not take any stances whatsoever as relates to gambling taking place within the country legalized and regulated by states and business entities within the country, for that reason, it’s up to the states to do that. The Federal Government did have its nose involved in sports betting (abolished in all but Nevada) via PASPA, (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) but that was recently overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States as violative of the Tenth Amendment.

The only other areas in which the Federal Government has anything really to say about gambling are these two:

The Federal Government overseas everything related to interstate commerce, it’s for that reason that states such as New Jersey may have online casinos, but only if they are being offered to people physically located within New Jersey’s boundaries. Furthermore, it is also (one of) the reasons why the State of Nevada could not accept sports bets via electronic means (also covered by the Wire Act AND Nevada law) from outside of the state.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act is often perceived to make it illegal for players located in the United States to gamble online, except in states that have legalized and regulated online gambling. That is not true. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act does exactly nothing to players, what it does is it makes it unlawful for banks to knowingly do business with offshore internet gambling providers. The operators themselves technically violate a myriad of United States laws, but that’s why they’re overseas.

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How State Gambling Laws are Passed

It is beyond the scope of this article to get into the minutiae of how each individual state can go about passing laws, so we will just highlight a few different general ways. Please note that these are not meant to be specific:

1.) By Legislative Vote:

This is the way that a vast majority of your state laws are passed. The State Legislature puts them to a vote, the law gets the sufficient number of votes and it becomes law on the appointed date. This is also the way MOST state gambling laws become laws.

2.) By Referendum, Ballot Initiative, Etc…

Different states use different verbiage as to what exactly this is called. Either way, it is a mechanism by which the voters themselves get to decide on a law directly that does not constitute an amendment. This usually requires a simple majority (or sometimes a plurality) vote whereas Amendments often require a higher percentage.

In most states, you can try to initiate one of these yourself, if you want to! You usually have to get a petition, or equivalent, signed by a certain percentage of voters from the previous Presidential Election year. Some states, such as Florida, also require that you have sufficient signatures from each individual voting district. Once you have done this, it is a matter on the following ballot.

3.) Constitutional Amendment by Voter:

Where other states have ballot initiatives and voter referendums, Florida is an example of a state in which citizens can set up an actual Constitutional Amendment using something similar to the process outlined above. As a result, the Florida Constitution has 129 Amendments and will be going for thirteen more this year! In the State of Florida, a supermajority (sixty percent) of voters are required to ratify a Constitutional Amendment.

The Difference?

The difference here is that not all, but many other countries handle all matters gambling on a national level, in terms of law passage. One example is that Great Britain (and others) are regulated by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission or UKGC.

It’s fairly unique in the United States that all of the states can handle their gambling laws individually, but what’s even more unique is that many of these laws are created by way of Direct Democracy, though in fairness, most are handled by state legislative branches.

On the Ballot in 2018

Now that everyone understands the way the process works, let’s take a look at all of the gambling-related initiatives, referendums and amendments across the country in 2018.

The first thing that we want to do here is give a shout out to Ballotpedia.org, which is a terrific source for all things politics and particularly state ballot measures. This would have been exceptionally more difficult without the easy-to-navigate and thorough information on their website. If you are interested in more details on these or any other measures on the ballot this year, we strongly recommend checking out Ballotpedia.

Arkansas Issue 4

Florida Amendment 3 & 13

Idaho Proposition 1

Maryland Question 1

Missouri Amendment 4