Online poker and gambling activists rejoiced at the end of 2014 when a federal bill designed to prohibit online gambling failed to reach Congress.
But that joy recently turned to sorrow as Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) reintroduced the measure, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), in hopes of putting the kibosh on the spread of igaming in the U.S. The bill would not only stop other states from joining Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey from legally offering poker and gambling sites, it would tear down the regimes in those three states as well.
Also on the hook would be states such as Illinois and New York that have been legally selling lottery tickets online. RAWA would not really “restore” any statutes, but instead would change the interpretation of the law to do away with the 2011 decision by the DoJ that found only sports betting to not be permitted under the 1961 Wire Act.
Should RAWA as it is currently written find approval among federal legislators, only online fantasy sports and horse racing would be allowed as legal Internet wagering options.
Chaffetz is a puppet on the string of Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson, the elderly billionaire who funds the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG). That organization, while not yet reaching its goal of wiping out online poker and gambling in America, has had an effect on the industry since coming into play in late 2013.
We can expect another drawn out battle this year between pro and anti-online gaming forces. The pro side is headed by the Poker Players Alliance, who have also done a remarkable job in lobbying for the rights of online poker players.
But that work is becoming increasingly burdensome against the deep pockets of Adelson, whose bank account has no bottom when it comes to pushing his agenda. One of the world’s wealthiest billionaires, the 81-year-old built his fortune by owning bricks and mortar casinos, but has it in for wagers made via the Internet.
Chaffetz first introduced RAWA last March in the House or Representatives and was joined by his colleague Sen. Lindsey Graham (R- SC), who offered up a companion bill in the Senate. No word yet on whether Graham will also reintroduce RAWA again this year, but don’t be surprised if he does.
Almost a dozen states are said to be considering online gambling legislation. When bills to ban igaming are proposed on the federal level, it severely hinders those states from moving forward.
Proposing and enacting are two very different actions, as it’s usually a long process before a bill becomes approved. But state lawmakers become more hesitant when federal bills are on the table. Nobody wants to spend time and money on an effort that may eventually be pushed aside.