Laxalt: I Support RAWA – But Not in My Back Yard

RAWANevada AG Adam Laxalt has clarified his position on the Restoration of Americas Wire Act in a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.

Back in October, Chris Koster and Alan Wilson – respectively the Attorney Generals for Missouri and South Carolina – jointly wrote a letter addressed to leading members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees expressing their support for the “Restoration of Americas Wire Act” (RAWA).

Prior to being sent to the Judiciary Committee members, the letter was circulated among the country´s other Attorney Generals with the request that they [geolink href=””]add their names to the signatory list[/geolink]. Only six more Attorney Generals supported the letter, but one of them was Nevada´s Attorney General Adam Laxalt.

Not surprisingly, Laxalt´s admission on the Jon Ralston show that he supported RAWA [geolink href=””]caused a major commotion[/geolink]. Both Nevada´s Governor Brian Sandoval and Chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board A. G. Burnett expressed concerns that the person who was supposed to be representing the state´s legal interests was supporting an act of legislation that would shut down Nevada´s online gambling industry.

Laxalt “Articulates” His Position

As a result of all the flak, Laxalt has written a letter to the same members of the Judiciary Committees, articulating his position and explaining why he gave his support to the circulated Attorney General letter. In his letter he repeats the comments he made on the Jon Ralston show that the 2011 Department of Justice´s opinion regarding the Wire Act should be reviewed by Congress.

He claims that the DoJ´s interpretation had consequences far beyond what an interpretation normally would have as, prior to 2011, the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice was of the opinion that the Wire Act was not limited to sports betting and could be applied to any form of interstate gambling. This change in opinion, Laxalt commented, was akin to law making and should have been reserved for Congress.

However, Laxalt also expressed the opinion that any RAWA-related action by Congress should not impact current regulated and licensed operations. He drew a distinction between licensed operators and unlicensed operators, and claimed he only shared the concerns expressed in the RAWA letter (about underage gambling and terrorist funding) with regard to unlicensed operators.

NIMBY – Not in My Back Yard

In an apparent major backtrack from declaring his support for RAWA, Laxalt includes in his letter a glowing commendation of the Internet technology used in Nevada´s gaming industry. He said that any passage of RAWA must account for Nevada´s existing robust, regulated and licensed … … casino resort economy and the devices that are used in them.

Laxalt argues that the wire communications that occur over networks should not be prohibited by an overly broad iteration of the Wire Act, and that exemptions should be made for gaming equipment and systems such as mobile sports wagering, mobile gaming systems and server-based games. That doesn´t leave a lot for RAWA to ban Mr. Laxalt!

Effectively – according to his letter – Laxalt wants Congress to review the DoJ´s interpretation of the Wire Act, and then pretty much leave everything as it is. It is not quite the message he was sending when he told John Ralston that he supported the Attorney General letter calling on Congress to prohibit all forms of Internet gambling. In fact, it appears quite the opposite message.

Laxalt Dropped from RAWA Hearing

It was widely anticipated that – following his appearance on the Jon Ralston show – Adam Laxalt would be at the top of the guest list for today´s hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The committee will be considering the law enforcement implications of a casino in every Smartphone. Jason Chaffetz´s catchy title masks the real motive behind the hearing – to roll out RAWA one last time before Christmas.

Although he was never confirmed as a guest witness, Laxalt will now not be appearing before the committee. His seat has apparently being taken by Alan Wilson – co-author of the Attorney General RAWA letter. Wilson will be joined as a witness by:

  • Joseph S. Campbell – Assistant Director FBI Criminal Investigative Division
  • Mark Lipparelli Nevada State Senator and former NGCB Chairman, and
  • Donald W. Kleine Douglas County Attorney

Somewhat surprisingly, the witness list is not top-heavy with Sheldon Adelson cronies. With only a handful of known RAWA supporters among the forty-three members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, it should be quite an informative meeting – not a phrase that you would usually associate with Jason Chaffetz!

We shall know more about the prospects for a blanket online gambling ban later today, but for now, the row about the Nevada Attorney General´s (limited) support for RAWA seems to be drawing to a close.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett