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Unpopular Online Gambling Ban Sneaked Into Spending Bill

For more than two years a cadre of congressmen have worked, without any luck, to enact a bill that would create a de facto national prohibition on Internet gambling. Though doing so would mean overturning the laws in several states that have legalized and regulated the activity, the effort has been led by Republican members—many of whom are vocal proponents of the principle of federalism. Despite being a top priority for a major GOP donor, two hearings, and support from three former presidential nominees, the measure proved increasingly unpalatable to members of Congress. Unable to pass the bill with the above-board approach, proponents are trying to ban online gambling by sneaking it through the process.

As Gambling Compliance first noticed, after failing miserably for the last two years to gain any support in congress, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has slipped language from the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) into the Senate Appropriations report (see the bottom of page 59). While such language is purely ceremonial, as commentary at DailySurge theorized, it can be used to justify tacking RAWA onto the bill.

“What they plan to do is to get these two bills passed with an accompanying report calling for the law to be changed to ban all gaming and gambling.  Then they will add the language into a conference report after the bills pass the House and the Senate.  This is called an “air drop,” because the House and Senate will never get to vote on this provision as an amendment.

The legislative language will be buried in a giant conference report that will be presented to the House and Senate as a take-it-or-leave it proposition. Insiders use this trick when they want to get something passed that does not have majority support.  They attach an unpopular special interest earmark to an appropriations bill in a way that makes it impossible for opponents to strip it out.

The Senate and House rules don’t allow for a Representative or Senator to strip out provisions, because of the way the Senate and House deal with appropriations bills.  What will happen is that the Adelson Earmark will appear in the bill and it will be too late to do anything about it.” (Emphasis added)

If passed, RAWA would prohibit all online gambling—whether interstate or intrastate. In addition to having dangerous implications for other kinds of online commerce, an online gambling ban will do nothing to protect consumers (as proponents like to claim it will), and instead only push them toward the black market. Additionally, it strips states of their constitutionally guaranteed power to regulate such activities as they see fit and as several (New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware) have been doing effectively for more than three years. Worst of all, it strips adult citizens of the right to decide when and how we spend our own money.

It can be stopped, but only if lawmakers act to keep this or any kind of gambling regulation from being added to the conference report. And it is up to those of us who care about individual liberty, federalism, or tech freedom, to let our representatives know that we will not stand for a law being crammed down our throats with procedural tricks that has neither the support of Congress nor the people.