Restore America’s Wire Act Inserted into the Senate Appropriations Bill
Restore America’s Wire Act (RAWA) received no traction on its own, but Sheldon Adelson’s supporters in the U.S. Congress have tried to attack the anti-online gambling bill to a key appropriations bill. The U.S. Senate is preparing a major Appropriations Bill, which pays for what the government does.
When an unpopular piece of legislation is attached to a pivotal vote, it puts congresspeople in a catch-22 situation. If they vote against the bill, they are voting to shut down the government. If they vote for the bill, they’re signing into law a measure they think is wrong.
“At the Request of Senator Graham”
Senate Appropriations Committee spokesperson Chris Gallegos said that language was slipping into the Appropriations Bill “at the request of Senator Graham“. Thus, a bill which could not win approval by its own merits might find its way into a law which can’t be refused.
The specific wording states: “Internet Gambling — Since 1961, the Wire Act has prohibited nearly all forms of gambling over interstate wires, including the Internet. However, beginning in 2011, certain states began to permit Internet gambling.”
“The Committee notes that the Wire Act did not change in 2011. The Committee also notes that the Supreme Court of the United States has stated that ‘criminal laws are for courts, not for the Government, to construe.”
History of the Wire Act
Sen. Graham’s insertion implies that Internet gambling was policed by the U.S. government over the decades, but it had not been. From December 31, 2006 until late 2011, the U.S. Justice Department’s policy on the UIGEA was that online gambling and online poker should be policed like online sports betting, because it was banned by the Wire Act. But the mainstream Internet did not exist for the first 30 years of the Wire Act. For the next 15 years, federal law did nothing to police online casinos and poker.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz held a hearing in his House Oversight Committee in December 2015 called “A Casino in Every Smartphone: Law Enforcement Implications”. This hearing was to demonstrate the danger to the public and to state’s rights of online and mobile gambling, by implying that residents of South Carolina and other non-gambling states would be able to gamble on New Jersey’s online casinos and poker rooms.
Geolocation Tech Proven As Solid
Because it was a simple matter for the experts who were called to demontrate that geolocation software is accurate and precludes out-of-state online gambling, the hearing was a public relations and policy disaster for Chaffetz, who chose to have a subordinate chair the second half of the meeting. Essentially, the experts pointed out GPS systems in people cars and smart phones, which quickly demonstrated Chaffetz and allies did not know what they were talking about — or knew and were being facetious.
Republicans of a libertarian bent, including Rand Paul and Ron Paul, opposed RAWA publicly. GOP lobbyists who dislike Washington’s central authority, like Grover Norquist, opposed the bill in less public ways.
The proponents of Restore America’s Wire Act realized they could not pass RAWA by storm, have decided now to pass the unpopular bill by sap. They have pretended to drop the matter entirely, perhaps angling to have a bill against illegal offshore websites passed, but are now going to try to slip the bill into other legislation, such as the Appropriations Bill. Like the UIGEA was attachced to the Safe Port Bill in 2006, this was always the biggest danger the RAWA presented.
On to House Appropriations Committee
The decision to support this inclusion is going to come down to the House Appropriations Committee. That committee’s chairman, Rep. John Culbertson (R-TX), might be the last line of defense against RAWA at this point — certainly, he’s the best line of defense.
John Culbertson is not likely to give the RAWA his support. Culbertson is a member of the House Tea Party Caucus and the Republican Study Group, which are bastions of state’s rights, federalism, and 2nd Amendment rights.
A State’s Rights Issue
While the gun issue is not a part of the debate on RAWA, the indirect effect of the passage of such a law is likely to hold sway with John Culbertson. As the logic goes, if a bill which would take online gambling decisions out of the hands of the individual states could be passed, then similar bills which strengthen federal gun control laws might be passed. Everything is connected by the relative interplay between the federal and state governments.
Thus, Rep. John Culbertson is likely to take Sen. Lindsey Graham’s passage out of the Appropriations Bill. If he does, then no harm to the cause of online gambling. If he does not, then it is hard to see how Restore America’s Wire Act would not be passed into law.