Graham Buries Anti-Gambling Language in Appropriations Bill

US PokerSenator Lindsey Graham has placed anti-gambling language into the Senate Appropriations Committee funding bill, raising fears of future RAWA legislation.

If at first you don´t succeed, try (and fail), try (and fail), try (and fail), and try again. That seems to be the logic behind Senator Lindsey Graham´s latest attempt to introduce federal legislation that would prohibit online gambling in the USA.

However, rather than being upfront about his intentions, Graham has sown the seeds for anti-online gambling legislation by hiding a small passage of text among the 141 pages of the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill 2017. The text reads:

Internet Gambling — Since 1961, the Wire Act has prohibited nearly all forms of gambling over interstate wires, including the Internet. However, beginning in 2011, certain states began to permit Internet gambling. The Committee notes that the Wire Act did not change in 2011. The Committee also notes that the Supreme Court of the United States has stated that ‘criminal laws are for courts, not for the Government, to construe.

How Significant is the Appropriations Bill?

The Appropriations Bill is a must-pass piece of legislation that authorizes billions of dollars of government spending. In its current format the proposals raised by the Senate Appropriations Committee do not have any legal power, but they do have a certain degree of influence over future legislation and are an indication of how the Senate Appropriations Committee is thinking.

The offending passage itself is not proposing a change in the law and it would also have to be inserted into the proposals published by the House Appropriations Committee in order to find its way into the final version of the Bill. However, if Graham or one of his cohorts succeeds in hiding anti-gambling language in the final version of the Bill – and the Bill is passed in its current format – it lays the groundwork for legislation similar to the “Restoration of Americas Wire Act (RAWA)” to be introduced at a later stage.

Why is Graham Still Trying to Ban Online Gambling?

Graham received significant financial support in his failed presidential campaign from Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson has previously said that he will spend whatever it takes to ban online gambling as he sees it as competition for his brick-and-mortar casinos. The insertion of anti-online gambling language into the Appropriations Bill is undoubtedly a thank you for the financial support – as would be the introduction of future legislation to ban online gambling in the USA.

Speculation through the online gambling industry is that Graham naively believed that nobody would notice his contribution to the Senate Appropriations Bill before it passed to the House Appropriations Committee. If that happened, there was every chance that the anti-online gambling language would remain in the proposals as it passed through the Conference Committee and onto the desk of the president for signing into law.

What are Graham´s Chances of Success Now?

Now that the anti-online gambling language has become public, those opposed to a federal ban are starting to make their voices heard. Rich Muny – the Vice President of Player Relations for the Poker Players Alliance – has already started a campaign for the PPA´s members to write to members of the House Appropriations Committee to ensure the language is not included in the final version of the Bill.

Basically, Graham´s chances of success are not great. Previous attempts to pass anti-online gambling legislation have been opposed by both parties in Congress – wary of allegations of corruption and cronyism. However, until the language is removed from the Appropriations Bill, parties opposed to a federal online gambling ban will still be a little concerned.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett