RAWA Language Rumored to Be Added to Appropriations Bill by Pennsylvania Representative Charlie Dent

Posted on: July 10, 2017, 10:00h. 

Last updated on: July 10, 2017, 11:28h.

Language from the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, aka RAWA, is reportedly being considered by US Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pennsylvania) for inclusion into an upcoming federal appropriations bill. RAWA is the Sheldon Adelson-backed measure that would reverse a 2011 opinion issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and make all online gambling illegal under federal law, not just sports betting.

RAWA Charlie Dent appropriations
Rep. Charlie Dent is reportedly planning to slide some RAWA-esque language aimed at banning internet gambling into a spending bill this fall.

According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CER), a DC nonprofit that advocates for limited government, Dent wants to embed the anti-internet gambling language into a law that lays out money for federal spending. Ironically, the news comes just as Dent’s home state is mulling legalizing online casinos in an effort to generate new forms of revenue.

RAWA, in its original form, sought to overturn the DOJ judgement that the longstanding Wire Act’s ban on the transmission of bets or wagers applies only to sports betting. Billionaire Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson, who says stopping the spread of online gambling is a moral issue, has used his influence to pressure some congressional lawmakers into backing RAWA: so far, without any meansurable success.

First introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), RAWA garnered multiple hearings, but generated little support.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he was “shocked” about the 2011 opinion and would consider revisiting it as DOJ chief. But earlier this month, his office announced he would recuse himself from any Wire Act hearing due to his recent hiring of attorney Charles Cooper, who has lobbied on behalf of Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.

Is Dent the New Chaffetz?

With Chaffetz no longer in the House and chairing the chamber’s Oversight Committee, Dent is emerging as a potential replacement for Adelson’s mission. A longtime supporter of banning online casinos, Dent cosponsored the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006.

Dent has plenty of reason to continue supporting a federal ban on iGaming. While Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering expanding slots to bars and restaurants, as well as legalizing internet play, the representative’s congressional district includes Bethlehem, the site of Las Vegas Sands’ lone domestic property outside of Nevada.

Bethlehem and both Lehigh and Northampton counties benefit greatly from the casino resort in eastern Pennsylvania. In addition to the $10 million annual local share payment, the regional economy profits off increased visitors who travel to the area for gambling, concerts, and other non-gaming related amenities.

Adelson was reportedly thinking of selling the resort as Pennsylvania pondered online gambling. But after MGM failed to come to terms with Sands, the billionaire backed away from that plan.

Appropriations Explained

Dent is a member of the US House Committee on Appropriations, and serves as chair of the military appropriations subcommittee, as well as vice chair of the subcommittee on state and foreign operations.

Once Congress comes to terms on a fiscal budget, appropriations bills set aside specific money for the federal spending. President Donald Trump proposed a $1.15 trillion budget to Congress in May that would cover spending from October 1, 2017, and September 30, 2018.

Once seen as formalities to legally allow the government to spend money, over time, appropriations have evolved into convenient vehicles for politicians to insert partisan legislation without having to go through normal and lengthy channels to do so.

Due to the importance of passing appropriations bills, add-on provisions are seen as a necessary evil to expedite agreement and move expenditure plans forward.