In 2011, the poker world was dismayed to learn that Barney Frank (D-MA) was retiring from Congress. The loss of Frank set federal online gambling legislative efforts back, as he was one of only a few supporters of online gambling legalization in Congress. Frank was also by far the loudest and most fervent.
Frank was online poker’s only real champion in Congress during his tenure. No one (sorry Joe Barton) has stepped up to fill his shoes since his departure.
In 2017, Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (R-UT) stunning retirement announcement caught the attention of the poker community and supporters of legal, regulated online gambling, but for an entirely different reason.
Unlike the loss of Frank, this time around, poker players can’t say good riddance fast enough. Chaffetz has been a thorn in their side for several years.
Chaffetz may leave Congress sooner rather than later. It sounds as if Chaffetz is not only retiring, but he may not even finish out his current term.
Chaffetz hasn’t said why he’s leaving Congress, only why he’s not leaving:
“For those that would speculate otherwise, let me be clear that I have no ulterior motives. I am healthy. I am confident I would continue to be re-elected by large margins. That said, I have made a personal decision to return to the private sector.”
Chaffetz leads the RAWA charge in Congress
Along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chaffetz has been the driving force behind a federal online gambling ban kicking around the halls of Congress since 2014. Chaffetz has even held several hearings on the matter.
Those hearings were stacked with hand-picked anti-online gambling witnesses – which blew up in his face.
But for all his rabble-rousing, Chaffetz’s attempts to pass a federal online gambling ban have gone nowhere. Still, the mere presence of this legislation has been pointed to as one of the leading reasons some states have balked at legalizing online gambling.
Won’t a new Chaffetz take his place?
The online gambling ban pushed by Chaffetz is widely believed to originate with Sheldon Adelson. Just a few months before the introduction of the first Restoration of America’s Wire Act bill, the billionaire casino owner said he would spend whatever it takes to stop online gambling.
But Adelson’s efforts to bring about a complete prohibition on online gambling in the United States is quite unpopular. And his overt involvement drew criticism from both sides of the aisle, with accusations of crony capitalism.
In addition to the cries of crony capitalism:
- A poll taken at CPAC 2017 indicated that nine out of ten Republicans oppose a federal online gambling ban.
- The National Governors Association penned a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in which they stated their concerns about federal action on this issue.
- A large coalition of Libertarian and Conservative groups have repeatedly opposed any federal action on online gambling.
In effect, Chaffetz has been sticking his neck out by advocating for RAWA. It’s unlikely that another conservative lawmaker in a powerful position (Chaffetz is the chairman of the House Oversight Committee) would do the same.
RAWA already effectively dead and buried
But as Michelle Minton of the Competitive Enterprise Institute stated, the RAWA ship with Chaffetz as its captain has already sailed.
“Rep. Chaffetz leaving the House has virtually no effect on RAWA’s prospects since it is functionally dead already,” Minton told CDC Gaming Reports. “It was his Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing that exposed widespread and bipartisan opposition to the federal ban on internet gambling, leaving proponents with only one recourse: to turn to administrative agencies as a means to halt state-based legalization.”
For supporters of legal, regulated online gambling, the real concern from comes from the attorney general’s office. Rumors are swirling that AG Sessions is looking into the 2011 Department of Justice opinion that opened the door for states to legalize and regulate online gaming within their borders.
Still, so long Rep. Chaffetz. Don’t let the door hit you in the…
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