The Lame Duck Congress Should Not Make Internet Gambling Illegal

| NOV 18, 2016 | 3:02 PM
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With the election of Donald Trump, the American people resoundingly rejected special interest groups that seek to use their money and connections to influence our government and serve their own needs.

President-elect Trump self-funded his campaign so he would not be beholden to the scourge of special interest groups that seek to control our country with their wallet. But now we are seeing a possible rush from the lame-duck Congress to dole out political paybacks before the inauguration to retiring members of Congress like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and bigwig donors.

Some members of Congress are now talking about immediately passing The Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson’s re-write of the Federal Wire Act of 1961. This bill would ban most forms of online gambling and take the Tenth Amendment down with it, all in the name of protecting Adelson’s brick-and-mortar casinos from free market competition.

RAWA was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and will outlaw just about all forms of online gambling, with the exception of fantasy football leagues. Not surprisingly, RAWA also has the support of Sen. Reid, who signed on to preserve the gambling monopoly in his home state of Nevada.

Supporters of the legislation to ban internet gambling deny that it is an attempt to repay billionaire donor Sheldon Adelson, Chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corporation. However, it is hard to deny this point when considering that Adelson and his family have made substantial donations directly to the bill’s most outspoken proponents, including to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY.).

In 2012, Adelson donated a whopping $100 million to Republican candidates, followed by another $5 million in 2014. It is estimated that he has also donated up to $75 million in the last few months of this year’s campaign to help Republicans get elected.

Adelson, who is best known for using his immense fortune to advance a pro-war foreign policy, is now calling in political favors to turn his online competitors into criminals.

Supporters of the legislation make the outrageous claims that state-regulated online gaming helps fund terrorists. This allegation is ludicrous. New Jersey has had regulated online gaming on the books for years, so no one can nod their head in approval to this point with a straight face.

Conservatives have recognized the potential dangers of RAWA’s passage since the bill’s introduction. Nearly three dozen organizations have voiced their strong objections to the measure, calling it a violation of the Tenth Amendment. Just as troubling is the impact the measure could have on eroding the rights of gun owners by setting a dangerous precedent, which may lead to a federal ban on online ammunition sales.

The Taxpayers Protection Alliance signed a coalition letter, stating that, “The Adelson-backed proposed federal ban of online gambling is an unnecessary intrusion by the federal government and one of the worst examples of crony capitalism.“

Grover Norquist of the Americans for Tax Reform added to the concerns by remarking that, “State legislatures are more than capable of making their own decisions about gambling online in their states just like they have done with live casinos. They don’t need the federal government babysitting them. The Internet should be a freedom zone, and this is a piece of that pie.” These are just a few of the many objections raised to the bill.

Additionally, lottery experts state that RAWA will intrude upon the half a dozen states that count on online lottery ticket sales to support their school systems and contribute to charities. In a letter written to a U.S. House Attorney, Debbie Dlugolenski Alford, Georgia’s lottery director, estimated that RAWA would cause Georgia to lose $39 million in revenue if the ban were to go into effect.

Numerous states have already decided where they stand regarding online gambling and many more are currently mulling it over. RAWA, however, will take away the states’ rights to choose.

TPA opposes a lame-duck session of Congress and has warned lawmakers about the negative consequences of a lame-duck session for taxpayers and citizens. If Congress makes the short-sighted mistake of slipping RAWA into a larger spending measure as this lame-duck session comes to a close, it would be clearly violating the Tenth Amendment. Should it pass, this could set a dangerous precedent that could end up hurting other causes, particularly the Second Amendment with respect to online ammunition sales.

Politics has turned into an expensive game full of lobbyists with self-serving agendas. One of the reasons for Donald Trump's overwhelming success in the election was his promise that influence peddling will no longer be tolerated as business-as-usual.

Unfortunately, Trump won’t be able to stop this bill before January, but this lame-duck Congress should follow his valiant example with respect to stopping corruption and only pass a long term spending bill and other must-pass pieces of legislation. Lawmakers must never forget the importance of preserving states’ rights. The time is now to stop big donors from both sides of the aisle from being rewarded with crony capitalist legislation.

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