I’ve posted number of articles about online gaming and states rights here, here, here, here, and here. Now Johnny Kampis writes that Pennsylvania’s Charles Dent has drafted an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill that would prohibit funds and resources within that legislation from being used to implement a memorandum from the Department of Justice in 2011 regarding online gaming.
Rep. Dent’s amendment would effectively ban online gaming without subjecting such a ban to the inconvenience of a public debate or up-or-down vote.
I can’t explain this any better than did Kampis. So his piece is reproduced in full below, with permission from the author:
Dent Damages Federalism With Online Gaming Amendment
A coalition of free-market oriented groups is urging House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) to oppose language supporting a federal ban or limitation on online gaming that could be included in this year’s appropriation process.
The group, which includes Institute for Liberty, Competitive Enterprise Institute and Taxpayers Protection Alliance, expressed concern about language Rep. Charles Dent (R-Penn.) has submitted as an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill that would prohibit funds and resources within that legislation from being used to implement a memorandum from the Department of Justice in 2011 regarding online gaming.
The DOJ memo said “interstate transmissions of wire communications that do not relate to a ‘sporting event or contest’ fall outside the reach of the Wire Act.”
The Interstate Wire Act, passed in 1961, prohibited bettors from using a “wire communication facility” to wager on sporting events. Since Congress used the Wire Act as the basis of its Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act the DOJ memo put the validity of that 2006 law into question. UIGEA put the brakes on the booming online poker industry, leading Party Poker and other sites to pull out of the U.S. market
After the DOJ issued the 2011 memo, some states began offering residents the ability to make wagers online. Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada started offering poker and/or casino games, while other states sell lottery tickets. Daily fantasy sports are big business in many states with the recent rise of that industry.
Rep. Dent is among the leaders in the crusade to rollback states’ rights on the issue of online gaming, threatening to curtail freedoms that were regained with the DOJ’s legal opinion, even as his home state is on the verge of establishing online gambling within its borders.
He tried and failed last year to insert similar language in a spending bill.
The coalition notes that opinion “opened the door for states, the traditional entities within our federalist system that regulate gaming, to explore ‘online gaming’ without interference from federal law enforcement authorities. With his amendment, Mr. Dent seeks to turn back the clock on nearly six years of well-established boundaries between state and federal jurisdiction.”
The group, in that letter, notes that President Trump’s desire to “drain the swamp” was a core philosophy of his presidential platform in 2016 and therefore, “business as usual will not be tolerated by the American people.”
“Yet we believe that an effort is underway to reward political donors by passing the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), or otherwise use federal authority (by forcing the Justice Department to re-engage, for instance) to create a de facto ban on internet gambling,” reads the letter.
Casino owner Sheldon Adelson, whose properties include the Venetian in Las Vegas and Sands in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, has given tens of millions of dollars to both super PACs and directly to the campaigns of Republican congressional candidates who are friendly to his efforts to abolish online gaming in the U.S.
The coalition says such efforts “trample on the Tenth Amendment’s protection of the power reserved for states by the Constitution to set their own gambling and lottery laws.”
RAWA legislation being buried in an appropriations bill also could set a dangerous precedent for either party to use that method to circumvent constitutional protections, the group says.
Andrew Langer, president of the Institute for Liberty and one of the co-signers of the letter, said federalism, the diffusion of power among levels and branches of government, is an essential aspect of our republic.
“Lose it, and the republic dies,” he said. “Our coalition is deeply concerned about attempts to chip away at federalism and in this instance is issuing an alarm to congressional leaders.”
The coalition also points out that earlier efforts to pass federal gambling prohibitions were met with strong bipartisan opposition in Congress, as well as from such groups as the National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislators. No such bills have moved past the committee hearing stage, they note.
Johnny Kampis is investigative reporter for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance and author of the upcoming book “Vegas or Bust: A Family Man Takes on the Pros,” which details, in part, how UIGEA changed the game of poker between 2006 and 2016.