US Congress

Graham, Chaffetz Online Gambling Ban Proposals Referred to Committees

Twin United States Congressional bills introduced this week that seek to strengthen the United States’ anti-gambling Wire Act have picked up a handful of co-sponsors and have now been referred to Senate and House subcommittees for future consideration.

The bills, introduced by US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and US. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), seek to annul a reinterpretation of the half-century-old Wire Act authored in late 2011 by US Attorney General Eric Holder stating that the Wire Act is exactly what it says — a ban on sportsbetting only.

congress-stepsBoth bills, still in their preliminary forms, were backed by dark-money donations originating from the Sheldon Adelson-CEO’d Las Vegas Sands Corporation, and were written by lobbyists reporting directly to Adelson and LVSands.  Adelson’s intent in strengthening the Wire Act’s reach is to stomp out Internet-based competition to his global, land-based casino empire.

Both new bills have now received formal US Congressional nomenclature.  The Adelson-Graham Senate bill has been designated as S. 2159, while the Adelson-Chaffetz House bill has been designated H.R. 4301.  The Adelson-Graham S. 2159 has been referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, while the Adelson-Chaffetz H.R. 4301 has been sent to the House Committee on the Judiciary.  The Judiciary stops, standard for Congressional measures, vet the proposed bills’ intended language before being passed on to other committees for further consideration.

Also, as expected, both bills picked up a small number of co-sponsors in conjunction with their filing.  Joining on as co-sponsors of the Adelson-Graham Senate bill are:

Ayotte, Kelly [R-NH]
Feinstein, Dianne [D-CA]
Lee, Mike [R-UT]

Sen. Mike Lee’s rapid rush to sign on as a co-sponsor of this bill could have been predicted, given his positioning as a new conservative in America’s most anti-gambling state, Utah, and also following his connection to fundraising efforts conducted on his behalf by disgraced and resigned former Utah Attorney General John Swallow, a former Lee ally.

That effort also included more than $9,000 directly raised for Lee’s campaign by indicted Utah e-marketer and online-poker payment processor Jeremy Johnson, making it desirable for Lee to take a position more in line with the Utah GOP’s existing stance regarding gambling, as well as to create.

Joining on as initial co-sponsors of the Adelson-Chaffetz House measure are these nine Representatives [number after state abbreviation denotes specific House district]:

Cleaver, Emanuel [D-MO, 5]
Franks, Trent [R-AZ, 8]
Gabbard, Tulsi [D-HI, 2]
Holding, George [R-NC, 13]
Jordan, Jim [R-OH, 4]
Lankford, James [R-OK, 5]
Matheson, Jim [D-UT, 4]
Smith, Lamar [R-TX, 21]
Wolf, Frank [R-VA, 10]

Initial estimates by federal-legislation tracking site GovTrack.us give both bills only small chances at passing, pegging the Adelson-Chaffetz measure at 6%, and the Adelson-Graham version even lower, at 1%.  Those numbers are generated primarily on the number and distribution of early co-sponsors, as well as the previous history of similar legislative efforts in Congress.  However, despite the media noise the Adelson-funded efforts have generated, the chances of these bills passing in any form remains low.

We’ll be back with more news on these measures, including some of the industry reactions to the Las Vegas Sands-authorized push.  Exactly none of that reaction for the record, has come from the vaunted American Gaming Association, the United States’ largest casino-lobbying organization, which according to several recent reports has been ordered to the sideline by Adelson himself, or have LVSands withdraw its support from the group.

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