Despite the fact that draining the swamp was a dominant theme of last Fall’s election campaign, there is yet another attempt to advance RAWA on Capitol Hill. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) is reportedly seeking to slip the legislation into the gigantic spending bill that Congress will vote on by September of this year. This is the latest under-handed attempt to advance the federal internet ban backed by Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
The Restoration of America’s Wireless Act (RAWA) was sponsored in the last session of Congress by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Marco Rubio (FL), who have all received substantial campaign contributions from Adelson. The Sands Bethlehem Casino, owned by Adelson, is located in Dent’s Pennsylvania congressional district.
Despite it’s strong backing by billionaire Adelson, whose casinos would face competition from legalized and regulated Internet-based gambling, every attempt to advance RAWA or similar legislation in Congress has failed. Rep. Chaffetz, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, staged a high profile hearing on RAWA in December of 2015 designed to build support for the bill. The hearing featured many witnesses who strongly made the case for regulated state-based online gambling. By the end of the hearing it was clear RAWA had been soundly defeated in the debate among those who testified for and against it, as well as the many members of Congress from both parties that rose in opposition.
For Four years now legalized regulated gambling has been in place in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware and the results have not turned out so bad as predicted by RAWA supporters a few years ago. Remember, the Chaffetz hearing was given the alarmist title, “A Casino in every smartphone,” all but predicting the end of the Republic as we know it if RAWA was not enacted.
Additionally, online gambling has been a huge financial success. Even Atlantic City, in decline for years, has had its tax revenue increase for the first time in more than a decade due to $20 million in tax revenue generated by online gambling in New Jersey.
“Since its launch in 2013, the new industry has generated around $125 million in new tax revenue for New Jersey 3,374 new jobs, and $219 million in wages to employees,” Michelle Minton reports writing on CEI.org, “Furthermore, the license-holders contributed over $1 million in funds for compulsive and problem gambling research and treatment.”
Charlie Dent’s latest attempt to advance legislation to federally ban online gambling is one of several efforts to promote this crony benefit for Sheldon Adelson and his brick-and-mortor casinos, who stand to benefit from RAWA. Last year, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) also filed a bill closely resembling RAWA after Adelson donated tens of millions to Super PACs backing the election of Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate.
Adelson and other supporters of RAWA has sought to convince Attorney General Jeff Sessions to administratively overturn the 2011 Justice Department ruling on the 1960 federal Wire Act, which would essentially implement the goal of RAWA without a vote in Congress. So far, Attorney General Sessions has not yet issued such a ruling.
RAWA has been strongly opposed by many grassroots conservative groups and liberty-oriented group because, in federally prohibiting online gambling in all 50 states, it would violate the basic principles of federalism and legitimate state authority over gambling regulation by the states under the Tenth Amendment.
RAWA continues to attract strong bipartisan opposition in Congress as well as from citizen groups. Let us hope that once again, members of Congress will remember the Constitution they took an oath to uphold and defend, as well as the voters who sent them to Washington D.C. Perhaps once again, RAWA will be soundly defeated in this current session of Congress.