Michelle  Minton

Republicans generally oppose federal encroachment on policy matters traditionally left to the states. SO why is Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex) alone among his GOP House colleagues in opposing a federal online gambling ban that would preempt state laws, reward special interests, and curtail an otherwise lawful pastime enjoyed by many Americans?

The Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA, S. 2159, H.R. 4301), sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), would rewrite the Federal Wire Act of 1961 to criminalize all “wire” communications related to gambling and overturn the laws of several states that have legalized online gambling within their borders. The Wire Act prohibits using a “wire communication facility for the transmission … of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest.” [Emphasis added]

The bill’s supporters claim the original intent of the 1961 Act was to ban all forms of gambling over the nation’s communications systems. Thus, they decry what they see as the Department of Justice’s 2011 reinterpretation that the Act as applies to gambling on sports only. Actually, the Obama Justice Department restored the original understanding of the Wire Act. It was Clinton’s DOJ that first reinterpreted the Wire Act to apply to Internet gambling and Bush’s DOJ that in 2002 reinterpreted the Wire Act to prohibit all forms of online gambling.

Michelle Minton

Michelle Minton is the Competitive Enterprise Institute's fellow specializing in consumer policy, FDA regulation of non-pharmaceuticals, alcohol regulation, food and beverage regulation, and internet gambling.