US internet gambling ban appears in DOJ appropriations bill

Language that would direct the US Department of Justice to ban internet gambling in all 50 states has made a surprise appearance in the department’s 2017 appropriations bill.

The internet gambling reference has sneaked into the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2017, which is currently before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

According to a committee spokesperson, the language was inserted at the request of Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the committee and long-time supporter of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s attempts to shut down online gaming in the United States.

Similar to the language used in the failed Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), the DOJ appropriations bill states: “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.’’ Abramski v. U.S., 134 S.Ct. 2259, 2274 (2014)”.

It accompanies the committee recommendation that the Justice cybersecurity budget be increased by $10.6m to $50.0m.

Former presidential candidate Graham has attracted a great deal of criticism for repeatedly attempting to usurp states’ rights to set their own gambling policies and for attempting to transfer that authority to the federal government.

Graham introduced legislation in 2014 to ban internet gambling, and again in 2015, failing both times to gather any significant support among lawmakers.

Commenting at the time on Graham’s 2015 attempt, Poker Players Alliance executive director John Pappas said: “In 2014, following private meetings between billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and Senator Lindsey Graham and several Adelson-sponsored fundraising events, Senator Graham introduced similar legislation to ban states’ from authorizing internet gambling within their own borders.”

“Sheldon Adelson’s power over politicians, especially those running for president, is significant, but Congress must show it is stronger,” he said.

It is hoped that now that the insertion of the language has come to light, the committee will take steps to remove it before the appropriations bill is passed.


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