Pennsylvania Representative Introduces an Anti-Online Gambling Bill to U.S. Congress
Michael Fitzpatrick, a U.S. Rep. from Pennsylvania, filed an anti-online gambling bill called HR 6453. Fitzpatrick’s bill is designed to “clarify the effect” of the 2011 Department of Justice opinion had on online gambling in the United States.
If Fitzpatrick’s bill were passed, it would lead to a ban on online gambling throughout the United States. The New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware online gambling industries would be rendered illegal, while potential industries in Pennsylvania and California would never come to fruition.
Cancels 2011 Justice Department Opinion
Michael Fitpatrick’s wording in the bill states that the Department of Justice’s opinion should not have the force of law. He wants the US Congress to declare that the 2011 opinion “does not carry the force of law and shall have no force and effect for purposes of interpreting or applying” the online gambling provisions of the UIGEA of 2006.
HR 6453 has been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Committee on the Judiciary. Fitzpatrick’s bill has two bipartisan co-sponsors, Republican Representative Charles Dent and Democrat Representative Bobby Rush. The bill is the latest in a series of measures to seek an anti-online gambling ban either in the 2016 lameduck session of Congress or the start of the 2017 session, which begins in early January.
Peter Amsel’s Speculation on HR 6453
Peter Amsel of the Calvin Ayre website suggested that Michael Fitzpatrick’s bill is designed to please Sheldon Adelson. Supposedly, Fitzpatrick has higher political ambitions and Adelson’s contributions are the motivation for HR 6453.
Whether the new legislation is going to be referred to as “Restore America’s Wire Act”, like previous congressional bans on online gambling have been called, is unknown. RAWA has been defeated several times, so the name might have negative connotations on Capitol Hill at this point.
Chances HR 6453 Gains Passage
It is unknown what kind of success HR 6453 might have. Previous iterations of an online gambling ban have failed miserably in the halls of Congress. While such bills have been championed by powerful Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, large numbers of libertarian-leaning Republicans have opposed the bill.
A federal ban on online gambling touches on state’s rights issues. Most conservative lawmakers believe the states should be allowed to decide gambling laws. If the federal government seizes the right to enact gambling bans, then the feds can use that authority to enact a variety of other laws which are usually confined to state governments.
That being said, the first 100 days of the Trump Administration is likely to see a massive number of bills passed. HR 6453 could be attached to a popular bill that is unlikely to be voted down, much like the UIGEA was attached to the Safe Port Bill. In that way, an unpopular measure might win approval without a great deal of debate.
Other methods exist to pass a 50-state online gambling ban.
Jeff Session’s Impact on Online Gambling
Supporters of RAWA might have other ways to reverse the 2011 Department of Justice opinion. The simplest way is to have the new US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, render the opposite opinion. Jeff Sessions is thought to be an anti-gambling lawmaker, so his hostility might be the biggest danger facing online gambling advocates.
If Sessions or staffers in his Department of Justice rendered a difference opinion on online casinos and poker sites, such gaming portals might be banned at the stroke of a pen. If that happened, states like New Jersey and Delaware likely would sue to maintain their online gambling industries.
Legal Threats to Online Gambling
Online gambling could be under peril in the Donald Trump era. There are several ways that online gambling could be banned by the federal government, in some cases with little trouble.
Professional poker players like Mike Matusow have suggested that a Trump Administration would legalize online poker within a year of taking office. That flies in the face of recent history regarding online gambling laws. Land-based casino owners are not natural allies to online gambling, because they see it as a potential competitor for customers.
Also, Donald Trump appears to be personal friends with Sheldon Adelson. In the Trump Administration, face-to-face access appears to override past affiliations or ethnic concerns, so it is much more likely that a word from a fellow casino mogul might be enough to win the president-elect’s support. The U.S. legal system is about to see a number of transformative measures passed, and online gambling advocates should take note that anything is possible in American politics these days.