Despite repeated failures, the effort to ban state-based regulated Internet gambling doesnt die. Just last week, Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA) has introduced another bill with language similar to the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), HR 6453. The bill has been referred to the House Committees on Financial Services and the Judiciary, it has attracted two co-sponsors, Rep. Charles Dent (R-PA) and Bobby Rush (D-IL). All of the various attempts at enacting RAWA-like legislation have failed to advance in Congress because of Republican support for the Tenth Amendment, and opposition to the federal government deciding state-based issues.
A coalition of freedom and limited government groups opposed the inclusion of internet gaming ban legislation in the giant spending bill Congress will pass during the “lame-duck” session. The legislation, using the same language as RAWA, which failed in Congress earlier this year, had been placed in an earlier version of the spending bill but was removed before it passed in both houses of Congress. The groups have sent a letter to Rep. John Culberson, Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science asking that anything similar to the RAWA legislation not be included in the bill.
The letter states, “We, the following free-market, limited-government, and freedom-oriented organizations are asking you to oppose language supporting any kind of ban or federal limitation on internet gaming that might be included in a “lame-duck” spending bill.”
In the letter, they noted how House Speaker Paul Ryan rejected calls to allow earmarks in spending bills, a past practice that has been discontinued recently. They mentioned RAWA in particular, that could be included in the spending bill, stating, “…we believe that an effort is underway to reward Republican donors by passing the Restore America’s Wire Act (RAWA) and creating a de facto ban on Internet gambling.”
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) has also written a letter to Speaker Ryan asking that a clean continuing resolution, free of legislative add-ons such as the RAWA legislation. Mulvaney called for not using the lame-duck spending bill to sneak in legislation, often included at the bequest of special interest groups or big money donors, that has not otherwise gone through the normal legislative process of committee hearings, markups, and Congressional debate.
“We look forward to working with the new administration to accomplish the conservative agenda we promised our constituents, and believe that a clean CR is the best way that work to begin in January.”
RAWA was sponsored in the House by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), one of several Republican members of Congress to receive campaign donations from Las Vegas Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who strongly supports enacting RAWA to shield his brick-and-mortar casinos from potential competition from Internet-based gambling in states that choose to legalize and regulate such activity.
RAWA had a full hearing before the House Oversight Committee earlier this year, and when it was clear the idea of a federal ban on state-based gambling violates the rights of states under the Tenth Amendment, the legislation had little support. Additionally, it was clear that the same authority used by Congress to prohibit states from having Internet-based gambling could also be exercised to ban sales of firearms and ammunition in violation of the Second Amendment.
The letter from the groups further highlighted problems with circumventing Congressional procedure, stating “Furthermore, the consequence of RAWA legislation being buried in a spending bill sets a dangerous precedent for any party to use such bills in the future to circumvent the Constitution’s protections in a variety of areas, including the 2nd Amendment, which increases the possibility of further federal intervention in firearm and ammunition sales.”
The letter in opposition to RAWA was signed by Andrew Langer, President of the Institute for Liberty, David Williams, President of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, Andrew F. Quinlan, President of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, Michelle Minton, Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Norm Singleton, Senior Vice President of the Campaign for Liberty, Seton Motley, President of Less Government, and George S. Scoville, III, who is a Constitutional Scholar and Online Commentator.
Supporters of federalism under the Tenth Amendment will need to continue to oppose RAWA, and any variations of it, in the coming session of Congress where HR 6453 will be heard in the two committees and have another chance to advance. While Adelson views this as a benefit for his financial interests, it is clearly a violation of state authority under the Tenth Amendments and Constitutional liberty to legislatively grant this crony-capitalist benefit to Adelson at the expense of the American people. Congress needs to defeat HR 6453 in the coming session and make it clear that Constitutional government trumps the business interests of one casino owner who donates lots of money to politicians.