George Leef reviews a new book by John Compton, political scientist at Chapman University, on how evangelical anti-vice campaigns against gambling, liquor and other social ills helped undermine the Constitution’s curbs on centralized power, paving the way for later Progressive gains.
The tension between moral reformers who insisted on a virtually unlimited view of the “police powers” of government (i.e., to regulate in ways intended to protect the health and morals of the citizenry) and the Constitution’s framers, who feared the results of allowing factions to use government power for their ends, was crucial in shaping constitutional law during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The book shows that by the time the New Deal’s aggressive expansions of federal power came before the Supreme Court, its earlier decisions in favor of approving legislation against liquor and lotteries had so undermined the defenses of property rights, contract, and federalism that it was nearly inevitable that the Court would cave in.
For example, when the Court decided the 1934 case of Blaisdell v. Savings and Loan, gutting the former understanding of the impairment of contracts clause, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes cited an earlier decision on interstate shipment of lottery tickets which had acquiesced in a new extension of the police power, on the grounds that a previously sacrosanct constitutional barrier could be “qualified” when a state needed to “safeguard the interests of its people.” [Forbes]
My knowledge of baccarat never got beyond James Bond novels, but this is quite a story of the Borgata casino’s suing a world-leading player over his having taken advantage of a defect in playing card manufacture, to the tune of nearly $10 million. There are some echoes of the perennial controversy over blackjack card counters (see here and here) [Kyle Wagner, DeadSpin].
We haven’t reported on the doings of Prof. Richard Daynard for a while, but here’s this Oregonian item about his institute at Northeastern University:
Mark Gottlieb, executive director of the Boston-based Public Health Advocacy Institute, said a handful of groups are looking at the potential for a broad product liability lawsuit over the addictive nature of the machines. …
“There are some similarities [with tobacco],” Gottlieb says. “We are talking about a product that is engineered to make people do something that is basically destructive and causes an economic injury.”
Portland attorney Greg Kafoury says he is part of “a team of national lawyers” looking at a potential class-action suit. He wouldn’t go into detail but called it “a major, long-term project.”
There is nothing new, however, about lawyers’ yearning to crack open this particular well-guarded vault. See our reports from May and September 2002, for example. Hope springs eternal?
Radley Balko, often linked in this space, is out with a new book entitled Rise of the Warrior Cop, about the militarization of local police forces. [Reviews: Scott Greenfield, Diane Goldstein] A Salon excerpt details SWAT team raids over such offenses as sports gambling (“It [the Fairfax County, Va. 2006 shooting of football bettor Sal Culosi) wasn’t even the first time a Virginia SWAT team had killed someone during a gambling raid”) as well as dog shootings by police and aggressive actions against political protests. Balko has been devoting his Huffington Post column to such related topics as the police-industrial complex, and the ABA Journal also has an extensive treatment (related podcast).
Counting by way of human memory is not unlawful, but casino law tends to ban card counting that is assisted by mechanical device. Is that a defensible distinction? [Adam Kolber, Prawfs]
“Lawsuits involving lottery pool winnings have been common enough to create a new set of case law, said Russ Weaver, a University of Louisville law professor. A cursory Google search shows some ‘Lotto lawyers’ across the country who specialize in such disputes.” [USA Today/AZCentral]
“The CFTC is suing popular betting site Intrade. And now Intrade is telling its [U.S.] customers to start shutting down their accounts.” [Business Insider, Alex Tabarrok]
The CFTC says bets on future events must be exchange-traded as a way of assuring “market integrity,” but Bryan Caplan begs to differ:
The CFTC’s real complaint is that consumers eagerly bet on Intrade because the company exemplifies market integrity: “I trust Intrade with my money because of their reputation, not government regulation.” …The only people the CFTC is “protecting” are their own obsolete employees.
Brian Doherty notes that the CFTC’s press release is “strangely devoid of any mention of anyone being victimized or defrauded.” Followup: Tabarrok.
Gamblers at a mini-baccarat table at the Atlantic City Golden Nugget could scarcely believe their good fortune: the house was dealing from an unshuffled deck, making it possible to guess which cards were coming next. “Forty-one consecutive winning hands later, the 14 players had racked up more than $1.5 million in winnings — surrounded by casino security convinced they had cheated but unable to prove how.” When the truth emerged, the casino filed a lawsuit against the card manufacturer, saying the decks had wrongly been promised as pre-shuffled. Meanwhile, it is refusing to cash in the uncashed chips of the winners, on the theory that New Jersey regulations invalidate casino games that do not offer fair odds to both sides. The players’ lawyer rejects that theory and also claims the casino has shown bias toward his clients because of their Asian origin, which the casino denies. [AP/NJ.com]
“A lawsuit alleges a Mississippi casino served so much alcohol to a man taking powerful prescription painkillers that he died on the floor of his hotel bathroom.” Additional dimension of pathos: he was at the casino spending the proceeds of a lawsuit settlement. [AP/Jackson Clarion Ledger]
A discarded Arkansas Lottery ticket turns out to be a $1 million winner, and now three women are fighting over who owns it. [ABC]
“A San Diego woman has sued the company that owns the Chuck E. Cheese’s family restaurant chain, claiming that many of the games intended for children at these locations are actually illegal gambling devices — like slot machines.” [San Diego Union-Tribune, Above the Law ("Can you imagine growing up and being known as the kid whose mom sued Chuck E. Cheese?")] For other class actions based on creative theories that something “amounts to” gambling, see this site’s reports from 1999 (Pokémon and other kids’ trading/collecting cards) and 2008 (“Deal or No Deal” TV show).
A Fort Lee, N.J. woman says NYC television station WABC “caused her thousands of dollars in emotional damage when it broadcast the wrong lottery numbers.” [UPI, AP]
“Because [Harrah's] ads did not explicitly state that the $15 ["birthday cash"] vouchers could not be redeemed until after 8 a.m. on the days in question, tens of thousands of recipients are entitled to $100 each in damages — a potential $8 million hit to the casino giant’s bottom line.” [AP/NYT]