Opinion

Rep. Dent’s Ill-Advised Power Grab

One of the things Republican-leaning voters have clearly rejected in the last several election cycles is back room dealing that benefits privileged industries. Unfortunately, many in Congress have yet to grasp this simple directive.

As Exhibit A, look at Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.). The Republican representative from Pennsylvania’s 15th Congressional District is attempting to tack an Internet gambling ban onto one of the appropriations bills currently winding its way through Congress.

Many are wondering why this would be suitable in an appropriations bill. The goal is to avoid a direct confrontation over the gambling provision bill by putting it into another bill that pretty much has to be passed to keep the government running.

Rep. Dent wants to attach his gambling ban to the Commerce, Justice, and State Department appropriations bill. With a looming crisis with North Korea, this is an appropriations bill that people want to be passed. If he manages to attach his bill and it doesn’t get stripped out before it hits the desk in the Oval Office, the President would be hard-pressed not to sign it.

Why would Rep. Dent do this? To answer that question, ask some more questions. Who wants this bill? Who benefits? Who loses?

The government of Dent’s own state does not want it and neither do the governments of the vast majority of these United States. The National Governors Association, for instance, sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking for him to respect federalism and not try to impose such a thing administratively. They also oppose Congress trying to ram this down all 50 states’ throats.

As for Pennsylvania voters, they want more freedom and fewer restrictions. A poll commissioned by the Bravo Group found that 66 percent of Pennsylvanians would back a proposal to allow online gaming in the state. Specifically they “want Pennsylvania to pass a law that will tax online gambling so the money can be used for education and other vital state programs.” And, even if Pennsylvanians didn’t want online gambling, that should be their choice, not Washington, D.C.

And state lawmakers have shown more than an idle interest in making this happen. PennLive.com reported that legislation sponsored by Pennsylvania state House Gaming Oversight Committee Chairman John Payne, a Republican, “would allow for online gaming, with the money going to help close a $2 billion hole in the state budget.”

But none of that can happen if Rep. Dent manages to pass a ban through Congress. If Rep. Dent is successful, the Justice Department would likely shut down Internet gambling in all 50 states.

Again: Who wants this bill? There are only two moneyed interests that would benefit from such a ban.  First, there are offshore Internet gambling operations that don’t pay taxes in the United States or obey any state regulations.  Secondly, there are American casinos who do not like or want the competition.

Rep. Dent is trying to do the very thing that his party’s voters have tried so hard to reject: working backroom deals to dodge public scrutiny; trampling federalism; stifling competition by smaller, nimbler competitors; putting Americans dead last.

Why in the world should Republican, or any, voters put up with that?

David Williams is the President of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.