Rep. Charlie Dent

Rep. Charlie Dent Trying RAWA Sneak Attack Again

As much as I loathe the anti-online poker crowd, I have to give them credit – they don’t give up. According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative/libertarian thinktank/”policy organization,” Representative Charlie Dent (R – Penn.) is once again trying to stealth-mode legislation that would make online poker illegal.

To rewind to understand what’s going on here, in 2009, New York’s lottery office and Illinois’ governor’s office wrote to the U.S. Department of Justice asking if selling lottery tickets online would be legal, particularly when it comes to the Federal Wire Act of 1961 and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 1961 (UIGEA).

The Wire Act was creating in an effort to curtail organized crime’s money making efforts by banning sports betting over telecommunications lines. For whatever reason, as online gambling rose to prominence, the DoJ and federal government applied the Wire Act to all internet gambling, as well.

In late 2011, the DoJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) issued a clarification of the Wire Act, saying it only made online sports betting illegal, not all other online gambling. Thus, Illinois and New York could go ahead and get internet lottery sales up and running. Additionally, this meant that states could start their own online gambling industries and to this point, New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware have legalized and regulated online poker.

Of course, this rustled the jimmies of the anti-online poker contingent, one of whom is billionaire Republican string-puller, Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson. Adelson had his team create the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), which aims to codify the old, incorrect interpretation of the Wire Act, that all online gambling is illegal.

Though the Wire Act has had a couple hearings over the years, it never went anywhere, as politicians from both parties saw it for the crony capitalism that it was.

Last year, though, Senator Lindsey Graham (R – S.C.), the Senator who did Adelson’s bidding and introduced RAWA in the Senate, inserted an earmark into Senate appropriations bill that would have rendered the OLC’s 2011 Wire Act clarification null. Basically, he was trying to sneak his anti-online poker language onto an unrelated, relatively must-pass bill. It’s total bullshit that things like that can be done, but that’s the way things work.

The same thing had to happen in the House of Representatives for the ban to succeed and Rep. Dent tried to do it. Fortunately for all of us, between the time Sen. Graham inserted his earmark and the time Dent was going to go forward with his, their colleagues figured out what was happening and shut that shit down.

Rep. Dent’s amendment read as follows:

The Memorandum Opinion for the Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, dated September 20, 2011, and pertaining to the lawfulness of proposals by Illinois and New York to use the Internet and out-of-state transaction processors to sell lottery tickets to in-state adults (including the applicability of the Wire Act (18 U.S.C. 1084) and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (31 U.S.C. 5361–5367) to such proposal), does not carry the force of law and shall have no force and effect for purposes of interpreting or applying section 5362(a)(10) of title 31, United States Code.

Rep. Dent still went ahead and submitted his amendment, probably because he was required to be Adelson, but he then withdrew it from consideration.

So now, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Rep. Dent is trying to do the same thing again. The organization doesn’t really have any other information on it and no recent bill having to do with online gambling is listed on Dent’s website, but the CEI wouldn’t have reason to make this up.

I disagree with many of the stances groups like the CEI take (VERY much disagree), but it is right on this one when it says the attempts to sneak RAWA-language into unrelated bills are “gross violations of legislative procedure, a threat to foundational constitutional principles, and harmful to both consumers and the economy.”

“All Americans, regardless of political affiliation or their opinion on gambling, should resist attempts like this to bypass the democratic process and take away states’ constitutional right to decide for themselves how to regulate commerce within their borders, all in service of one special interest,” the CEI concludes.

Oh, did we mentioned that Sheldon Adelson’s Sands Bethlehem casino is located in Rep. Dent’s district? Because it is.

It can be difficult nowadays to keep track of all the horseshit going on in Washington D.C. and there is certainly more important sneaky legislation – the Republicans’ health care bill – in our consciousness right now, but it is important to not stop keeping an eye on what anti-online poker forces are doing, lest they finally achieve their goals.


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