United States Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) has certainly been no friend to the gambling industry during his decade-plus time in Congress, but in a rather unexpected twist, he might just be the politician in Washington, DC, that ultimately blocks the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) from someday becoming law.
RAWA would outlaw all forms of online gaming including Internet poker and lottery sales.
While many advocates of reduced gambling are backing the bill, Goodlatte, who has been against the expansion of casino betting in his state throughout his political career, is in a tough spot when it comes to iGaming prohibition on the federal level due to his also longstanding advocacy for states’ rights.
“I am committed to the Constitution and to the constitutional principles of limited government, states’ rights, and individual liberties, and I will continue to fight hard to make sure the federal government abides by the restrictions the Constitution places on it,” Goodlatte writes on his House website.
10th Amendment Trumps RAWA
Since arriving in Congress, Goodlatte has served on the House Judiciary Committee and was appointed chairman in 2013.
During last March’s RAWA hearing after Judiciary Committee member Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced HR 707, Goodlatte was obviously split on the act’s legality as it relates to the 10th Amendment.
“I am personally opposed to Internet gambling because it is used as a mechanism to launder money, because it causes bankruptcy and breaks up families, and because it can even lead to suicide, as it did for a constituent from my district,” he said during his opening remarks.
“Updating the Wire Act can be a tool to protect states’ rights to prohibit gambling activity. However, there is also another states’ rights dynamic that we must acknowledge, and that is what to do about states that want to regulate and permit Internet gambling within their own borders.”
The 10th Amendment says that “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution… are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
RAWA goes against the 10th Amendment as the Constitution says nothing about Internet trade.
Of course, James Madison or any of the signers back in 1787 couldn’t have even remotely imagined the technological world of today, but that still isn’t reason enough for Goodlatte to abandon his principles.
Goodlatte Shows Cards
Though some have speculated whether Goodlatte might fold on his ideologies in favor of less gambling, Daniel Horowitz, an independent consultant who’s worked for several Congresspersons, says that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Supporters of the federalism-violating ban on Internet gaming bill want to roll back state laws and prevent other states from enacting similar measure,” he writes on the Washington Times. “This idea is a clear violation of the constitutional principles advocated throughout Mr. Goodlatte’s career.”
Should Goodlatte stand his ground, it will be difficult for the Judiciary Committee to recommend HR 707 be taken to the House floor.
While Horowitz seems confident Goodlatte will be an advocate for preventing RAWA, there is a loophole by way of the US Constitution Article 1, Section 8 that states Congress has the power to “regulate commerce among several states.”
Internet gambling, though confined in New Jersey, is certainly an interstate activity as Nevada and Delaware are already sharing player liquidity in its power rooms, and more compacts are expected should additional states legalize iPoker.