Legislation that looks to reimpose a ban on legalized online gambling was introduced today in the U.S. Senate. It’s called the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA).
The bill launched by Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-SC), wants to restore an interpretation of federal law that prohibits Online gambling. In 2011 the Department of Justice allowed for interpretation of the law which opened doors for various states to explore the legality of making poker and casino-style games viable online.
Since 2011, Nevada has legalized online poker. Delaware and New Jersey have legalized a wider offering of games online with a few other states that might soon follow. The new bill does not contain a ‘grandfather clause’ that would allow those states to continue legally. It would be a full on ban.
It would essentially roll back federal law on Internet gambling back to last decade. It would exempt activities that are now permitted in section 5362(1)(E) of title 31. Allowing only those exempted under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, such as fantasy sports, skill games, and horse racing.
Along with senator and presidential hopeful Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is the lead Democratic co-sponsor, are all cosponsoring it. It is a companion bill to one sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in the House.
Many critics are arguing that the legislation putforth from Graham, is a moral banner for someone who is running for president this year. But in reality he is carrying out the goals of one Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino owner who has put big money behind campaigns against online gambling and might be a big supporter of Graham’s presidency race if he delivers results now. Adelson, is the chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., and has argued many times publically that making bets online is ‘corrosive to society’ and bad business for the casino industry.
“It is unfortunate that Sen. Graham and Sen. Rubio and several colleagues have chosen to carry Adelson’s water in the U.S. Senate,” said Kristen Hawn, a spokeswoman for the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection, a pro-Web gaming group funded by MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corp.
John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, described a connection between Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson and Sen. Graham. “Sheldon Adelson’s power over politicians, especially those running for president, is significant, but Congress must show it is stronger,” Pappas said in a media statement. “Online poker licensing and regulation is the only way to ensure consumers are protected and Americans who want to play poker online, have a safe way to do so.”
Adelson’s argument seems short-sighted as a coalition of conservatives and casinos regard the Internet as a new frontier for online marketing and profits that could be garnered off online betting. And they continue to argue that individual states should be given the ability to decide for their constiuents whether they are allowed to wager online or not.
John Ashbrook, a spokesman for the Adelson-funded Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, said the “Graham-Feinstein bill is an important part of the effort.” Ashbrook claims that “predatory online gambling is ruining lives all across our country and this bill will help us stop it.”
Many experts are saying that the bill won’t stop it. Online gambling advocates say banning the practice will only drive it underground, where law enforcement officials will have a difficult time rooting out predators, cheaters and potential money launderers.
This fact, alongside excluding state lotteries from the ban, and the lack of a grandfather clause for existing online gaming in Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey will probably make RAWA a tough sell, especially to lawmakers that represent these states.
Currently RAWA is stalled in committee in the House and there is no clear schedule about its advancement. No committee hearing on the Senate version of RAWA has been scheduled at this time, so all the U.S. online gambling industry and American bettors can do, is wait and see how all this plays out.