US Representative Jason Chaffetz, Online Gambling Antagonist, Won’t Seek Reelection to Congress

Posted on: April 20, 2017, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: April 20, 2017, 02:01h.

US Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is walking away from politics and departing Congress when his term expires in 2018. In an announcement posted to Facebook, the House Oversight Committee chairman said he’s following the path he’s long championed: that public service should be for a limited time and not become a lifetime career.

US Rep. Jason Chaffetz online gambling
US Rep. Jason Chaffetz has had enough of Congress, and that’s just fine with online gambling advocates. (Image: Kristin Murphy/Desert News)

Chaffetz’ departure is good news for online gambling. The Utahan has been a leading sponsor of anti-internet gaming legislation, primarily his authoring and introducing of RAWA, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act.

Though RAWA gained little traction in Congress (despite billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s attempted persuasion through campaign dollars), Chaffetz saying he’s leaving town is a welcomed development to many online gamblers and casino operators that are invested in internet gaming.

The Republican legislator has quickly become a rising star in the GOP in recent years, as he’s overseen the Congressional investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as US Secretary of State. Chaffetz grilled the former First Lady and Democratic presidential candidate, and the scrutiny provided plenty of headlines and talking points for Republicans and Donald Trump during the recent election.

Not About Winning

Chaffetz has made it clear that his decision has nothing to do with any concern about his potential for reelection.

“For those that would speculate otherwise, let me be clear that I have no ulterior motives. I am confident I would continue to be re-elected by large margins. I have the full support of Speaker Ryan . . . I have made a personal decision,” Chaffetz noted.

The congressman said he wouldn’t rule out a political run in the future, prompting some to believe he might have his eyes set on the Utah governorship down the line. Sitting Republican Governor Gary Herbert’s term will be up in 2020.

Sessions vs. States’ Rights

America is facing plenty of critical issues domestically and around the world. That’s why online gambling legislation on the federal level doesn’t seem likely to become a congressional target anytime soon.

However, concerns remain for Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey, the three states with legalized online gambling, as well as additional states that are mulling internet betting legislation. The National Governors Association recently issued a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions opining that the legalization of iGaming should be left up to individual states.

During Sessions’ Senate confirmation hearing, he declared he was “shocked” when the Department of Justice issued an opinion in 2011 on the longstanding Wire Act that essentially opened up internet gambling. RAWA seeks to reverse the 2011 DOJ ruling.

It might seem unlikely that a Trump presidency would support anti-gambling legislation. But Adelson, the Las Vegas Sands tycoon who claims to be on a moral crusade to block online gaming, was Trump’s largest donor, having given many millions to his presidential efforts.

Trump famously pledged to “drain the swamp” and rid Washington of politicians catering to powerful lobbyists and donors. The issues surrounding online gambling could test that campaign promise.