PA Congressman Introduces Anti-Online Poker Legislation

Posted on December 16, 2016 - Last Updated on March 8, 2017

[toc]There will be no federal change to online gambling laws in 2016. A recently introduced piece of legislation in the US Congress from Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania is going to keep the issue on the table in 2017 though.

What is the new bill?

The new bill is HR 6543. It is similar to the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA). The goal of the bill is to clarify the scope of Wire Act to explicitly make online gambling of any sort illegal in the United States.

The bill is short, just two pages long, referencing the 2011 Department of Justice opinion saying online gambling is not covered by 1961’s Wire Act. The bill explicitly states that opinion should have no legal force or standing in determining online gambling’s status.

The ruling did not directly result in state-regulated online gaming in states like New Jersey and Nevada. It allows states to regulate online gambling if they so choose. The opinion did give state lawmakers in the states more confidence the federal government would not intervene and shut their operations down.

The bill was introduced to the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 7. That is where the bill currently remains. Congress recessed for the year on Dec. 9. If the issue is addressed, it will not be until 2017.

Sheldon Adelson’s connection

This is the latest attempt to get some version of RAWA through Congress. Earlier this month, rumors swirled a similar amendment would be passed on must-pass legislation like the stop-gap spending bill.

Numerous attempts have been made to push RAWA through on its own or attach it as an amendment to another piece of legislation. The legislation has been a pet project of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson for years.

In 2012, Fitzpatrick was reelected to Congress. During that campaign the Republican Jewish Coalition held campaign events in Pennsylvania to support Fitzpatrick and others. Adelson was said to be one of the main contributors behind the election efforts.

Fitzpatrick was elected for a third time in 2014. He promised not to seek a fourth term in 2016. Instead his brother, Brian Fitzpatrick, successfully ran for election and won the seat. Introducing the anti-gambling resolution was one of Michael’s last acts as a Congressman.

What is next for the bill?

The new session of Congress gets underway with Brian Fitzpatrick representing Pennsylvania on Jan. 3.

The bill has not been voted on in committee. Adelson was a large contributor to Donald Trump’s campaign. There has been no word from the President-elect regarding any stance on online gambling once he takes office.

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Jessica Welman

Jessica Welman is the managing editor of PlayPennsylvania. A longtime poker media presence, Jess has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for WSOP.com.

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