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Washington prepares to trample local gaming rules

The House and Senate may take up a bill this year called the “Restoration of America’s Wire Act” (RAWA) at the behest of special interests who own Las Vegas casinos. The House version is H.R. 707 sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and the Senate version is S. 1668 sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). The bills will change existing law to outlaw most forms of online gambling and gaming, even when explicitly authorized by a state. The idea of using federal power to overturn state decisions is hostile to federalism.

There are three individuals representing different power centers who could stop this idea before it becomes law. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is the gatekeeper for the Senate Judiciary Committee and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is the House Judiciary Chairman. Two Judiciary Committee leaders could stop these bills if they are motivated to protect the right of a state to regulate commerce within that state. 

{mosads}Also, the Tea Party wing is hot to push federalism and defense of the 10th Amendment, so a member like Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) could generate an uprising in the Republican Caucus that would make it impossible to pass this controversial measure.

The beginning of the presidential campaign finds both Democrats and Republicans in agreement that corporate America has become reliant on taxpayer giveaways and bailouts, and that it has to stop. Washington has become a favor factory for political contributors.  Grassroots activists in both parties have had enough of it. Some efforts at cronyism are more brazen than others, but the campaign to prohibit states from legalizing online gambling and the sale of lottery tickets on the Internet might be the most brash.

Some casino owners worry that the growth, legalization and regulation of online gambling is a threat to future profits. They have instituted a massively funded campaign to overturn the actions of states like New Jersey that allow only gambling for their residents.

Adding insult to injury, RAWA also bans states from allowing the sale of lottery tickets on the Internet, likely to assist convenience store owners for whom the sales constitute the bulk of their profits. More than a dozen states have some kind of online lottery services and would have their preferences overridden by Washington if this law passed. When pressed on the point, the chief sponsors of the legislation in the House told state lottery officials that once the bill passed, they could come to Congress to ask for permission to sell lottery tickets within their own borders. That’s certainly not what the Framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote the Bill of Rights.

Therefore, RAWA wouldn’t simply roll back the online poker and casino industries in Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey, it would also roll back online lottery sales in a number of states, including Illinois, Minnesota, Georgia and Michigan – not to mention preemptively prohibit them across the U.S.

Interestingly, some Democrats including Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are supportive of the effort. He is more than willing to shield Las Vegas from the threat of online competition. This is a brazen example of crony capitalism in Congress.

The RAWA bill has been condemned by most conservative groups who see it as an assault on the Tenth Amendment – the constitution’s provision to protect the states from an over-powerful federal government.

In the House, Goodlatte is a stalwart opponent of gambling. He has a long-history of opposition to its expansion, but unlike other supporters of the bill, he is a principled supporter of the Tenth Amendment. Up to this date, he has correctly placed the Constitution, and the rights of states to regulate their own affairs, ahead of his personal animosity toward gambling.

In the Senate, Grassley has held his cards tight, but that suggests an understanding that a federal government powerful enough to ban gambling by the states could be powerful enough to one day force it on the states. Hawaii and Utah do not allow any form of gambling within their borders, a decision made by their people and elective representatives. New Jersey, Delaware and other states’ decision to allow it should be respected with the same vigilance and determination in Washington.

Mulvaney is a high profile member of the new House Freedom Caucus. Members of that caucus are expected to expand freedom and defeat ideas that restrict freedom. Look to Mulvaney as one barometer on how strong the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party will oppose this measure.

The lobbying vice on the House and Senate will begin to close in the next few months. One can only hope that the key players can listen to the anger and frustration of voters who are tired of losing their rights to political donors whose interests have become more important than the populace and the Constitution itself.

Quinlan is the cofounder and president of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity (@cfandp).

Tags Bob Goodlatte Chuck Grassley Harry Reid Jason Chaffetz Lindsey Graham

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