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When It Comes To PA Online Gambling, Congressman Charlie Dent Missed The Memo

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With legislative efforts to ban online gambling going nowhere, Congressman Charlie Dent (R-PA) has taken a more covert approach over the past two years.

Instead of sponsoring legislation and fighting out in the open, Dent tried to slip anti-online gambling language into appropriations bills in both 2016 and 2017.

Like the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) bills before it, attempts to add online gambling legislation into appropriations bills tends to be an exercise in futility.

Dent faces criticism in PA

Dent’s anti-online gambling crusade is at odds with his home state’s current efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling. That dichotomy has led to scathing criticism of Dent in local papers.

As guest columnist Dean Chambers wrote at LehighValleyLive.com:

“The voters elected Dent and others to reform government and represent the interests of the American people. Banning online gambling is a solution to a non-problem that will cost many states a great deal of tax revenue, all for the purposes of granting a crony capitalist benefit to one billionaire, who has donated massive sums of cash to key politicians in Washington.”

The “billionaire” Chambers is alluding to is Sheldon Adelson. If you are not aware, Adelson is an ardent opponent of online gambling. His one-man campaign against iGaming dates back to 2013. And wouldn’t you know it, the Pennsylvania district Dent represents just so happens to house Sands Bethlehem Casino. The casino is owned by Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Adelson’s three-front war

So far, Adelson is not making headway to outlaw online gambling. However, he is now waging his anti-online-gambling campaign on three fronts.

Legislation

Since legislation seeking to prohibit online gambling began circulating in 2014, Congress hasn’t exactly welcomed it with open arms. Usually it’s laughed out of the hearing room.

2017 is probably the worst atmosphere for such legislation. Congress has a lot of big thing to deal with. Given that situation, a RAWA-style federal online gambling ban is unlikely to be anywhere near the top of its agenda.

The Department of Justice

There is a growing concern that the Department of Justice could revisit the 2011 Office of Legal Counsel opinion that granted states the right to legalize and regulate online gambling within their borders.

Embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself from the decision. Sessions hired a lawyer with ties to the Adelson-backed Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling group. Nonetheless, the possibility of the DOJ overturning the opinion still exists,. Plus, based on Sessions “recusal” in all things Russia and subsequent hand in firing former FBI Director James Comey, a recusal may not eliminate Session’s involvement.

A Dent-like addition

The most likely way a federal online gambling ban becomes a reality is through a Dent-like addition to a larger piece of must-pass legislation.

That’s how the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) passed in 2006. While it might be more difficult to slip something by in 2017, it could still happen.

Bottom line

Vigilance is important.

Adelson and company may be hitless right now, but they only have to succeed once to win.

Steve Ruddock

About

Steve Ruddock has been a well-known writer and analyst in the world of regulated US online gambling. He contributes to a number of online publications focused on online poker and online casino, including OnlinePokerReport.com, PlayNJ.com, and many others.