Thanks to the vigilance of the poker community, yet another attempt to sneak the highly unpopular federal online gambling ban known as RAWA (the Restoration of America’s Wire Act) into a large piece of legislation via legislative parlor tricks has been exposed.
Passing the RAWA online gambling ban is one of the pet projects of billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson has been pushing for its passage since it was introduced in early 2014.
So far he is 0-5.
With the hearings bearing no fruit, and attempts to create a more palatable bill falling on deaf ears, it now appears we are back to square one: backdoor efforts to pass RAWA by attaching it to a piece of must-pass legislation.
The latest backdoor effort to get RAWA signed into law comes courtesy of the bill’s senate sponsor, Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
The longtime RAWA supporter inserted a committee report with pro-RAWA language into a $56.3 billion funding bill authored by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Here is what the “Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2017” says:
“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.'”
By itself, the report is little more than an opinion, but in Congress even the most meaningless gesture could have far-reaching ramifications.
As GamblingCompliance notes (paywall), it lacks any force of law:
“Committee reports do not have the force of law, but serve as a mechanism for committee members to express their beliefs and preferences about the legislation they pass.
Chris Gallegos, a spokesman for the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the paragraph on Internet gambling was included ‘at the request of Senator [Lindsey] Graham.'”
However, government watchdogs have been quick to point out that while such language may seem innocuous, it could also have a much more nefarious purpose. Such tactics are used to carry out a long-term plan, and have been used in the past to sneak unpopular legislation through Congress.
According to one theory put forth by the far-right website dailysurge.com, the language included in the Senate version of the CJS bill would also be added to the House version, and this would open the door to legislative action on RAWA.
According to the website:
“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.”
Even though this appears to be yet another desperate Hail Mary heave to the end zone by RAWA supporters, like any Hail Mary pass, it will need to be defended against.
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