RAWA Supporters Working Behind the Scenes
Sheldon Adelson may be an 84-year-old multi-billionaire with business interests around the world, but he somehow manages to find the time to oppose online gaming efforts in the United States. Further, he takes the time to oversee his Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling lobbying group and “encourage” various members of Congress to find a way to outlaw online gaming in the US once and for all.
His obsession with the budding industry seemingly comes from his desire to protect the long-term profitability and reputation of his casino empire. With establishments around the world – from Las Vegas to Macau – Adelson is quite proud of his business accomplishments. And he feels strongly that the online gaming industry is a serious danger to his lucrative casinos.
Despite studies to the contrary, studies that unequivocally show that online gaming does not cannibalize land-based casinos but boosts their profitability, Adelson remains committed to spend his last years rallying against online gaming, including online poker. And since he is not a member of Congress, he knows he can hold campaign contributions over the heads of those with elections in the works to get them to do his bidding.
US Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania
One of Adelson’s biggest proponents in Congress these days is Rep. Charlie Dent, who has been working earnestly in 2017 to sneak anti-online gaming language into must-pass legislation.
Michelle Minton of the Competitive Enterprise Institute first brought Dent’s efforts to the attention of the online gaming community by exposing his efforts to include said language in an appropriations bill before the summer recess. While the exact wording is unclear, the idea is to pattern it after the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), the purpose of which is to reverse the 2011 Department of Justice decision to clarify the Wire Act. The RAWA proposal intends to revert back to the original interpretation of the Wire Act, which again leaves states’ rights in limbo with regard to their ability to regulate their own online gaming businesses.
Dent tried to insert RAWA wording into the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill for the 2018 fiscal year in mid-July, but he was not able to do it. He then intended to find an alternate plan, though more than one month has passed with no sign of action.
Thanks to you and many others who publicly opposed Rep. Dent's efforts. Lots of work over the past week to stop it in its tracks.-JP https://t.co/OfmszLkhaO
— PokerPlayersAlliance (@ppapoker) July 14, 2017
The desires to ban online gambling by Dent seem curious at first glance, due to his representation of Pennsylvania, a state that overwhelmingly wants to legalize online gaming and has been on the cusp of accomplishing that goal for nearly two years. However, he does represent the district in Pennsylvania that houses Adelson’s sole casino in the state, Sands Bethlehem.
What may motivate Dent is the upcoming 2018 election for his House seat. The Republican has served since 2004 and won fairly handily over every opponent he has faced since then. But 2018 is a different year, especially considering the wild card that the Trump presidency has placed in all Republicans’ hands. Even more for Dent, he has not been as staunch a supporter of President Donald Trump as Trump likes to see. He is a part of the moderate Tuesday Group in the House and has openly criticized Trump, as when he said:
- “I think the president never really laid out core principles and didn’t sell them to the American people,” he said regarding health care reform.
- “It’s entirely counterproductive for the president to be picking fights with Republican senators who he will need for important agenda items that they both agree on,” he said of Trump’s actions.
Those types of jabs at Trump can hurt Dent’s run in 2018, as Trump and his allies have committed to making reelection difficult for a number of members of Congress who oppose Trump in public. While no opponent has declared an intention to run against Dent in next year’s election, the possibility looms. And Dent could need money to defend his seat, which is where Adelson’s money can come in handy.
US Representative Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania
Another solid supporter of Adelson’s quest to ban online gaming is Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania.
But it was his brother who made a big move in favor of RAWA-style legislation first. In December of 2016, he introduced HR.6453 to the House. Its purpose was clear: “To clarify the effect of a 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, and for other purposes.” The document also mentions the “applicability of the Wire Act and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act” (UIGEA), which pertains more broadly to online gambling.
Brian was then elected in 2016 to that seat and is still in his first term in Congress.
The problem could come with seeking a second term in 2018. Not only is his district one that may turn toward a Democrat due to anti-Trump sentiment, Fitzpatrick has become one of the targets of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2018. The effort to target him among a group of four Republican incumbents could put his seat at risk, and he will need donations from the likes of Adelson to make the race a competitive one.
In order to stay in good with Adelson, Fitzpatrick is planning to carry on the RAWA ways of his brother. It has been reported that he is writing a letter calling for the Department of Justice to reverse its 2011 decision about the Wire Act, allowing the ban on internet gambling to be reinstated without having to pass a RAWA-type law to do it. While US Attorney General Jeff Sessions is recused from anything to do with the decision based on his close ties with Adelson, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein could make the decision.