Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick Threatens Online Poker with New Bill

December 14th, 2016 | by Kaycee James
Michael Fitzpatrick anti-online poker bill.

Pennsylvania Representative Michael Fitzpatrick has introduced an anti-online poker bill to the House. (Image: legion.com/Andrea Dickerson)

Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA) is the latest politician to join the anti-online poker movement.

Unlike those before him, Pennsylvania’s Fitzpatrick isn’t supporting the Sheldon Adelson-backed Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) bill.

Instead, he’s introduced a piece of legislation that would essentially nullify the DOJ’s 2011 interpretation of the Wire Act.

RAWA Reborn

Like RAWA, Fitzpatrick’s HR 6453 has been submitted to the House of Representatives and will look to outlaw online poker and lotteries at a federal level.

But, unlike RAWA which wants to apply the 1961 Wire Act to cover online betting, HR 6453 wants its current interpretation to be ignored so that UIGEA can be reapplied.

Back in 2011, the DOJ was asked to clarify the Wire Act in relation to online lotteries by the states of New York and Illinois.

The verdict was that the act didn’t apply to online gaming at an interstate level and that paved the way for state regulation of online poker and casino games in New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada.

In essence, the 2011 interpretation allowed states to bypass UIGEA which outlawed the processing of funds between US residents and online gambling companies.

However, if Fitzpatrick’s bill manages to gain some traction in the House, it would close this loophole and once again make online gaming impossible at a federal and, therefore, state level.

A Long Shot for Fitzpatrick

At this stage, Fitzpatrick’s bill has been referred to the House Judiciary for further action, but this could be where its journey comes to an end.

Like RAWA, which virtually fell off a cliff in 2016, HR 6453 wants to impose a blanket ban on iGaming and this ignores state rights.

This disregard for the individual rights of states is deeply unpopular in all areas of the political world and its one of the main reasons RAWA wasn’t able to progress in 2016. With HR 6453 charting a similar path, it’s unlikely this bill will have much of an impact in the coming months.

Of course, to simply ignore the latest anti-online poker effort would be a mistake.

But, if we’re looking at the bigger picture, it seems as though Fitzpatrick is playing a fairly bum hand out of position with this one.

The 1961 Wire Act

Before online gambling was even a thing, the Wire Act was introduced as a way to combat racketeering.

In essence, the act outlaws gambling or betting on sports via telephones:

“Whoever being engaged in the business of betting or wagering knowingly uses a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest, or for the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of bets or wagers, or for information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”

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