Rep. Dent Fails to Add RAWA Language to House Appropriations Bill
If there is one thing we can all admire from the pro-RAWA legislators on Capitol Hill it’s that they are persistent. Despite overwhelming opposition from both sides of the aisle, those in Congress who want to do Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson’s bidding and ban online gambling the United States just keep trying. And, of course, they keep failing. On Tuesday, an attempt to insert RAWA-like language into the House Appropriations Bill fell by the wayside as it found virtually no support.
As readers of this site probably well know, RAWA, the full name of which is the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, is a piece of legislation Adelson has been pushing for a couple years now in an attempt to put a halt to all online gambling, the little there actually is, in the U.S. The Wire Act, which it falsely wants to “ restore,” was passed in 1961 as a means of curtailing organized crime. It specifically prohibits sports betting over communications lines. With the advent of internet gambling, the Department of Justice, for whatever reason, began to interpret the Wire Act as applying to all gambling. In late 2011, the DoJ issued a clarification, saying that nope, the Wire Act is only about sports betting.
This infuriated Adelson, who wrongly sees online gambling as a threat to his brick-and-mortar empire (though he would say he’s against it to help protect his country’s children). Thus, he and his team came up with RAWA, which would ban all online gambling, effectively putting back in place the incorrect interpretation of the Wire Act.
Adelson has failed on a number of occasions to get RAWA passed. It was introduced more than once in the Senate by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R – SC) and in the House by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R- Utah), but never made it out of committee. Chaffetz held a couple hearings on the bill, both of which were complete jokes. The second, in particular, went wildly against Chaffetz. Though RAWA is a Republican-led bill – Adelson has donated hundreds of millions to Republican political campaigns – most legislators from both major parties look at it as garbage.
In April, Graham tried another tactic to sneak RAWA into federal code: he inserted pro-RAWA language into the Senate Appropriations Bill. The short passage was as follows:
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.’ Abramski v. U.S., 134 S.Ct. 2259, 2274 (2014) (internal citation omitted).
Reduced to a very basic level, if someone else was able to get similar language inserted into the House Appropriations Bill, online gambling could be banned without an actual bill being argued or passed. Fortunately, Rep. Charlie Dent (R – PA) couldn’t get it done. While it was easy to miss Graham’s tactic, people did find out about it and word is that legislators were not thrilled with Dent trying the same thing. Before he even tried to insert the language, he knew he had lost, but he still went through the formality of offering his amendment then withdrawing it.
So, for now, RAWA is still dead. But if its supporters are willing to try to skirt the democratic process, it will likely rear its ugly head once again.
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