A long time opponent of online gambling legalization is calling it quits.
Rep. Charlie Dent, a Republican serving his 7th term in the 15th District of Pennsylvania, announced last Thursday he would not be running for reelection in 2018.
Rep. Dent will be remembered by many in different ways, but we remember him primarily as one of a handful of politicians who has consistently carried water for Sheldon Adelson, the end boss of anti-iGaming villains, in his quest to ban online gambling in the United States.
Dent’s Centrist Profile
Congressman Dent is best known as a moderate Republican, insomuch as such a thing exists in 2017. He co-chairs the Tuesday Group, which is comprised of 50 GOP Congressmen who seek to dilute the influence of hard line conservatives in the larger GOP caucus.
Dent’s positions have broken from the GOP at times, particularly on social issues. But he’s been, for more than a decade, one of the leading voices in support of a federal prohibition of online gambling.
A prohibitionist at heart
Here’s a part of Dent’s profile that no libertarian will miss.
Congressman Dent has, throughout his tenure in Congress, taken prohibitionist positions on many “vice”-related issues and has co-sponsored numerous drug prohibition bills over the years.
More importantly for online gambling advocates, Dent was a co-sponsor of the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act – the online gambling prohibition bill that passed the House in 2006 and ultimately morphed into the infamous Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.
Adelson’s influence clear for years
More recently, Congressman Dent has been a top supporter of Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) legislation peddled by online gambling antagonist Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is determined to turn back the clock on progress made by legal, regulated online gambling in the United States over the last several years. One of the world’s richest men, the casino billionaire spent tens of millions in the 2016 election cycle alone, both personally and through his corporation, to influence politics.
Dent has attempted to push RAWA through in any number of ways, and has been thoroughly derided for his efforts.
Adelson’s only Pennsylvania property, Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, happens to be part of Dent’s Congressional district.
An illogical point of view
Like stubbornly clinging to drug prohibition as a solution to drug-related problems, advocating internet gambling prohibition defies logic.
Casino gambling is a widespread industry throughout the United States and world all over. Pennsylvania alone is home to 12 land-based gambling facilities.
Online gambling, including online poker, casino games, fantasy sports and more, is widespread in the state as well. Only, consumers aren’t protected online the way they are in brick and mortar properties, and problem isn’t that online gambling is unsafe. The problem is politicians like Dent, who have stood in the way of legal, safe and secure options, licensed and regulated by the state.
How it applies to Pennsylvania in 2017
Pennsylvania is currently closest to legalizing online gambling of the 47 states that do not allow it. It is the only state in recent years to have passed iGaming bills through both its House and Senate. And while there are substantial differences between the bills passed by the two houses, there’s a real chance of passage before the end of this year.
At the federal level, there’s been virtually no progress in Congress on this issue during recent years. When online gaming comes up at the federal level, it’s usually for the purpose of antagonizing our industry.
Dent, along with cohorts like Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), have served to create uncertainty at the state level. Legislators in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, already nervous about supporting gambling expansion, see the waters further muddied by the appearance of a prohibition preference in Congress.
Clearing the way, but only a little
Dent’s opposition to iGaming, misguided as it may be, appears to be sincere. And thereby having him out of Congress is a step in the right direction for those of us who’d like to see legalization and regulation become the norm in Pennsylvania and throughout the USA.
That said we shouldn’t overstate what this means. The Adelsons of the world can always find another hack to buy off, and at the end of the day the majority of these battles will be fought not in Congress but at the state legislative level.