The Washington Post reports that Sheldon Adelson is encountering some serious opposition to his attempts to ban most forms of internet gambling through the Restoration of the American Wire Act bills, possibly triggered by his lobbyists’ intense last-minute attempts to get the bill through the House Judiciary Committee before the current season ends.
The committee has since taken the RAWA off its agenda, but not before the lobbyists had made their presence felt in a Congressional blitz with a particular focus on Judiciary Committee members and aimed at persuading them to progress the bill and then attach it to a must-pass spending bill during the lame-duck session that ends in December.
Half of the 22-member committee support the RAWA bill.
John Pappas, director of the Poker Players Alliance, has confirmed that lobbyists working for and against the proposed ban have been seen frequently in the offices of members of the House Judiciary Committee, and an Adelson lieutenant claimed that both Democrat and Republican House leaders have been engaged.
A spokesman for Republican leader John Boehner said staffers have met with proponents and opponents of the bill since the mid-term election.
There is speculation that all this political activity may have motivated a number of influential conservative organisations to take up the issue, not so much in support of legalised online gambling, but to defend states’ rights.
The most influential among these groups, the Americans for Tax Reform headed by politically powerful Grover Norquist, says that US states do not need the federal government baby-sitting them in a strongly worded letter sent to Congressional leaders of both parties this week.
Co-signatories on the letter are the presidents of the American Consumer Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Our America Initiative, Digital Liberty, the Institute for Policy Innovation, the American Conservative Union, Campaign for Liberty, the Institute for Liberty, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, the Center for Individual Freedom and the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.
The letter urges Congressional representatives to respect the autonomy of the states and reject the banning attempt.
It criticises the anti-online gambling lobby’s misrepresentation of the 1961 Wire Act’s historical application to online gambling, citing a September 2014 paper from the University of Nevada by Competitive Enterprise Institute Fellow, Michelle Minton, and notes:
“While RAWA supporters contend that this legislation is a simple fix to the 53-year-old Wire Act on sports betting, RAWA attempts to apply federal sports betting regulations to online gambling – even though this legislation was created decades before the invention of the internet.
“Minton documents the original debate regarding the Wire Act and shows that Congress had a very narrow intent for the legislation because of the same federalism concerns that exist today. Courts have repeatedly upheld that intent, which was the basis of the Justice Department’s 2011 opinion of the law.”
The full Minton paper can be read here:
The letter follows a flurry of op-ed activity by both pro and anti-online gambling figures this week (see previous reports) as fears mounted (now assuaged) that the Judiciary Committee would progress the RAWA bill.
But defeat this year does not mean that Adelson is going to go away; Adelson lieutenant Andy Abboud recently told Nevada gaming journalist Jon Ralston that a federal ban would be considered in Congress soon, either this year or next year.
“The die is cast on this,” Abboud told Ralston. “The cake is baked.”
The RAWA has attracted 18 political co-sponsors in the House and three in the Senate in the eight months since its introduction.