Federal Anti-Internet Gambling Bill on the Floor

March 31, 2014

An initiative to roll back state-regulated online poker has officially been introduced by Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina and Republican US Congressman Jason Chaffetz out of Utah. In draft form, the bill had been deemed the Internet Gambling Control Act, but has since been renamed the much more intimidating name, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, also called RAWA.

It is not a surprise to many that the bill is suspected to be heavily backed by Sheldon Adelson, arguably the world’s biggest (and richest) opponent to online gambling regulations in the US. The billionaire casino tycoon has made it his life’s mission over the past six plus months to put a stop to state-regulated online gambling, banning any online gambling at the federal level.

An Adelson lobbyist was identified early on as an author of an early draft of the bill, and it is very similar to the goals and policies set forth by Adelson’s campaign, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.

Co-sponsors of the House and Senate versions of the bill, which appear to be identical, are Senators Kelly Ayotte, Mike Lee, and Dianne Feinstein in the Senate, and in the House, Representatives Emanuel Cleaver, Jim Matheson, Jim Jordan, Tulsi Gabbard, Trent Franks, James Lankford, Frank Wolf, and Lamar Smith.

The RAWA also doesn’t make any exclusions for existing states that have passed state-regulated online gambling, which thus far include Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey, and California is close on their heels.

The Las Vegas Review Journal claims that these states “would need to come to Congress for permission to continue that arrangement” if the bill passes.

However, there is a clause in the RAWA that offers a partial exemption for in-person and computer-generated retail state lotto sales. Furthermore, the bill excludes horse racing, fantasy sports, insurance, securities, and other forms of betting.

At the same time, online poker proponents Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller of Nevada are working on their own bill to rework the Wire Act that would include a carve out for online poker, in a similar way that fantasy sports were omitted from the UIGEA. Therefore, it may mean a compromised bill would need to be drafted before Senator Reid would vote to pass it.

Heller says, “Get the bill out there first, take a look at it, see what it does.”

On the other hand, Graham said to the Las Vegas Sun, “If you want to have a poker exception, offer an amendment and see if it will pass.”


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