Pennsylvania Stamp

Pennsylvania House Urges Congress to Dump RAWA

With talks about legalizing online gambling heating up in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has made it known to the United States Congress that it does not want the federal government telling residents of the state what they cannot do. On Tuesday, the House passed H.R. 140, a resolution that, in no uncertain terms, told Congress not to pass H.R. 707, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA).

US Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)

US Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)

Three separate bills that would legalize and regulate online gambling in Pennsylvania have been introduced recently, with one, State Representative John Payne’s House Bill 649, set to be discussed in a hearing in front of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, which Payne chairs, on Thursday. Pennsylvania’s land-based gaming industry has grown quickly over the last several years, drawing business away from neighboring New Jersey. New Jersey and Delaware have legalized online gambling, though, so Pennsylvania legislators are seriously considering doing to the same in order to compete. Nearby Connecticut and Maryland also have major brick-and-mortar casinos, so Pennsylvania is right in the middle of a major gambling bloc in the U.S.

Of course, Sheldon Adelson and his employees in Congress (now including former online poker champion, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid) are out to erase online gaming from the face of the country with RAWA. Rep. Jason Chaffetz introduced the bill in February and a sham hearing was held on it in front of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security in March. Should it eventually pass, online gambling, with some exceptions (but not poker), would be illegal in the U.S., even in states which have already legalized it.

Below is the text of H.R. 140:

A RESOLUTION

Urging the Congress of the United States to defeat H.R. 707 and any other legislation which would prohibit states from authorizing and conducting Internet gaming.

WHEREAS, The Restoration of America’s Wire Act, introduced as  H.R. 707 in the 114th Congress, would prohibit the transmission by wire communication of any bet or wager or of information assisting in the placement of any bet or wager, including Internet gaming; and

WHEREAS, A Federal prohibition against Internet gaming would directly and negatively impact Pennsylvania by foreclosing the future potential of Internet gaming to generate tax revenue, to  create economic and employment opportunities, including high-tech software jobs, and to foster valuable business ventures for Pennsylvania casinos; and

WHEREAS, If enacted, H.R. 707 would prohibit the Commonwealth from authorizing and conducting Internet gaming and from capturing new tax revenue for Pennsylvania; and

WHEREAS, This prohibition would preclude the Commonwealth’s ability to create a legitimate online gaming industry within its borders, drive illegal operators out of business and protect consumers; and

WHEREAS, Passage of this measure as Federal law would be inimical to the interests of this Commonwealth, which has been at the forefront of a well-regulated casino gaming industry for nearly a decade and which recognizes the benefits of Internet gaming and its future potential; and

WHEREAS, Over the course of our nation’s history, state governments, not the Federal Government, have determined what forms of gambling should be legal or illegal within their borders and, if legal, how gambling should be regulated or controlled; therefore be it

RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania urge the Congress of the United States to defeat the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, introduced as H.R. 707 in the 114th Congress, which prohibits the transmission by wire communication of any bet or wager or of information assisting in the placement of any bet or wager, including Internet gaming; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania implore the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation to unequivocally oppose H.R. 707, which would unduly ban Internet gaming and violate the rights and protections guaranteed to the states under the 10th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States; and be it further

RESOLVED, That copies of this resolution be transmitted to each member of Congress from Pennsylvania.

The Poker Players Alliance (PPA), as one might expect, applauded the move by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. In a press release, PPA executive director John Pappas said:

The passage of this resolution sends a strong and clear message to the U.S. Congress that Pennsylvania has the right to make their own legislative decisions about licensing and regulating online poker without the partisan influence of Washington politics. Sheldon Adelson’s anti-states’ rights bill would do nothing to protect Pennsylvanians online and in fact would do the opposite by forcing Internet poker players into a black market with none of the consumer safeguards that players deserve.

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