The federal online gaming ban, strongly backed by Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and that has failed to get much support on Capitol Hill from members of Congress and the Senate, appears to have been given another life.
Allegedly, Sen. Lindsey Graham has slipped into the 141-page Senate Appropriations Bill the language of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) he has previously sponsored in the Senate. The provision would make internet-based gambling illegal in all states, regardless of each state’s individual laws.
RAWA was introduced in the House by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and in the Senate by Graham and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida. Adelson and other owners of brick-and-mortar casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, viewing online casinos in states that legalize online regulated gaming as competition, strongly supported the effort to ban such legalized gambling in the states.
Adelson has gone so far in this effort to create and generously fund an anti-gambling group called the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling to crusade against regulated legalized online gambling at the state level.
In an effort to build support for RAWA, Chaffetz held a hearing on the bill in December 2015, and invited a number of witnesses with expertise on the issue. The hearing, titled “A Casino in Every Smartphone — Law Enforcement Implications,” was dominated by vocal opponents of RAWA who strongly made the case the bill is an assault on federalism.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-South Carolina, strongly represented federalism in opposition to the federal internet gambling ban, pointing out that the Commerce Clause gives no authority for the Congress to legislate, or regulate, state-based internet gambling within the borders of the individual states. Mulvaney also noted that federal authority exercised over state-based online gambling is likely to also be used to regulate, restrict or ban the sales of firearms and ammunition over the internet, in violation of the Second Amendment.
After the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the bill, the following language appeared in the bill, similar to the key provisions of RAWA:
“Internet Gambling — Since 1961, the Wire Act has prohibited nearly all forms of gambling over interstate wires, including the Internet. However, beginning in 2011, certain states began to permit Internet gambling. The Committee notes that the Wire Act did not change in 2011. The Committee also notes that the Supreme Court of the United States has stated that ‘criminal laws are for courts, not for the Government, to construe.’”
It was “at the request of Senator Graham,” the RAWA language was placed in the Appropriations Bill, according to Senate Appropriations Committee representative Chris Gallegos. Graham is an early supporter of the federal internet gambling ban who has accepted donations from Adelson, the chief backer of RAWA.
While RAWA gained little support in the legislative process in the Congress and the Senate, and it was seen as losing in the hearings Chaffetz held, it now finds its way, in a very underhanded and sneaky manner, back into the legislative process by its quiet insertion into the Appropriations Bill. Legislative trickery like this is precisely what gives citizens good reason to be cynical of Congress, and earns Congress the single-digit approval ratings in the polls.
The bill heads to Congress soon, where it will be taken up in the House Appropriations Committee, whose chairman is Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights and federalism who is also a member of the Republican Study Committee and the House Tea Party Caucus. Given its threat to federalism on state-based regulated gambling and Second Amendment rights, it is hoped that Culberson will see that the RAWA language is removed from the appropriations bill.
Many grass-roots citizen groups are strongly against federally banning internet-based gambling within the states, and few members of Congress have shown support for the idea. The House of Representatives was created by the framers of the Constitution to be the body that represents the people most closely. It remains to be seen if the Congress will remember this in removing the RAWA language from the appropriations bill.
Dean Chambers is a blogger who has written news and commentary articles on a variety of subjects. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.