EDITORIAL: Congress should ax betting tax

Our representatives in Washington, D.C., rarely have trouble coming up with ways to extract more money from the people, which is then spent on more government. So it’s surprising — and downright laudable — when a lawmaker goes to bat not once, but twice to get a tax completely repealed and keep money in the hands of those who can put it to far better use.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., last week reintroduced a bill that would repeal a federal handle tax on Nevada sports books. As reported by the Review-Journal’s Howard Stutz, the tax was instituted before the 1992 passage of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which defined the legal status of U.S. sports wagering.

Rep. Titus told Mr. Stutz the levy places an improper burden on the state’s sports betting industry. The tax rate is a seemingly minuscule 0.0025 percent, generating between $9 million and $11 million annually for the federal government. That amount is comparable to rubbing a couple of pennies together when considering the annual federal budget, which runs into the trillions of dollars.

Keeping that $9 million to $11 million in the state — most of it in Clark County — would have a significant impact. The tax is levied only in Nevada. Rep. Titus’ bill would prevent that money from being sucked out of our economy and allow it to create more jobs and strengthen Nevada companies.

But the reasons for repealing the tax go beyond improving Nevada’s economy. The tax is supposed to fund the investigation of illegal sports betting. (Cue laugh tracks.) In reaching out to the IRS, Rep. Titus said, “They were unable to confirm that the funding is being used for investigations or in any way related to gaming.” Americans place hundreds of billions of dollars in illegal sports bets every year, so much that calls to end the federal ban on sports betting outside grandfathered Nevada are gaining momentum. Even if $11 million were being spent to stop illegal sports betting, it would be akin to spending $11 million to eradicate mosquitoes — a complete waste of time and money.

Rep. Titus first introduced this bill in August, but it received no additional congressional support. Nevada Reps. Joe Heck, Mark Amodei and Cresent Hardy, all in the GOP House majority, should get behind Rep. Titus’ idea and make sure it has the attention of Republican leadership. Then Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., should shepherd the bill through the Senate. It’s a slam dunk.

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