The voters sent a clear message on Election Day to reform government and drain the swamp, but some in Washington D.C. didn’t get the message. While few were watching, on September 21, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), an ally of Las Vegas Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, filed a bill in the senate that is almost identical to the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) that would federally ban internet-based gambling in all states. The bill, S.3376, just like RAWA would prohibit state-based gambling online.
Against strong opposition from many Republicans and Democrats in Congress, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) pushed for passage of RAWA. The bill failed to see consideration before the House Judiciary Committee because it’s Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) is a strong supporter of the Tenth Amendment and clearly sees that a federal ban on state-based internet gambling is in violation.
Chaffetz instead held a high profile hearing before the House Oversight Committee he chairs titled “A Casino in Every Smartphone – Law Enforcement Implications” designed to build support in Congress for RAWA. By the end of the hearing, Republicans and Democrats testifying against RAWA strongly made the case for state-based regulated gambling while almost entirely refuting the arguments of those in favor of RAWA. The hearing was a complete failure for Chaffetz.
After the hearing, few members of Congress had any ambition to push for passage of the federal internet gambling ban. Chaffetz, as well as Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who have all received campaign donations from Adelson, were sponsors of RAWA in this year’s session of Congress.
In the Chaffetz hearing, Reps. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) and Thomas Massive (R-KY) both highlighted the strong Tenth Amendment arguments against RAWA, showing how clearly the bill is a violation of Constitutional liberty. Additionally, Rep. Massive illustrated how the same federal authority that could be abused to ban internet gambling could also threaten Second Amendment rights by prohibiting the sales of firearms and ammunition by online vendors.
Supporters of RAWA contended that the nature of online gambling made it impossible to prevent residents from states that prohibit online gambling from engaging in it via online casino hosted in the states where it is legal. These claims were strong refuted by Information Technology experts involved with implementing online gambling in New Jersey and Nevada testified about the use of technology that allows online casino operators to block citizens from states that prohibit online gambling from participating on their online casinos.
The defeat of the arguments over RAWA doesn’t stop Adelson from seeking another chance to ban internet-based gambling. The timing of the Cotton legislation on Sept. 21 of this year is quite telling. It comes just one day after Adelson announced his donation of $20 million to the Senate Leadership Fund, a Super PAC supporting the election of Republicans to the U.S. Senate. Adelson expects the legislative favor of RAWA type legislation for his investment and Sen. Cotton stepped up to do his bidding one day later. Adelson isn’t morally opposed to gambling himself, as an owner of brick-and-mortar casinos, he simply wants to government authority to shut down potential competition in the industry.
Adeslon and his allies in Congress aren’t giving up. Reportedly, the RAWA-like language is going to be slipped into a year-end spending bill in Congress in the coming weeks. The American people just elected Donald Trump the next president on a pledge to drain the swamp and clean up this kind of cronyism and corruption in Washington D.C. Congress needs to say no to Adelson and make sure no variation of RAWA is ever enacted.