It appears Sheldon Adelson’s desire to ban online gambling will have to wait until 2015, as the current manifestation of the unwieldy Cromnibus (all 600+ pages of it) was written without a mention of the Adelson-inspired Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), according to multiple sources monitoring the situation.
Since the midterm elections, RAWA has been one of the hottest topics inside the beltway. The mainstream press was drawn to the bill, most notably because of its high-profile champion and the overt quid pro quo politics that appear to be transpiring between some of Washington D.C.’s biggest power players and a certain billionaire casino magnate/political donor.
With the amount of coverage the measure has received over the past few weeks, RAWA has turned into the 2014 Lame Duck’s “SCOTUS” or “Debt Ceiling”, the latest term plucked from the Capitol Hill lexicon to trickle down to the masses.
Unlike the mainstream press, who smell a good story and likely care very little one way or the other about online gambling, the fear among online gambling advocates over the past few weeks was a potential repeat of 2006, when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) weaseled its way into the pages of the Safe Ports Act.
On-again, off-again, on-again, off-again
RAWA sat untouched for most of the legislative session, but following the midterm elections there was a sudden newfound interest in the RAWA bills, and over the course of the following month the potential online gambling ban played the part of Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees; no matter what opposition or setbacks it faced, RAWA simply refused to die.
The first salvo in the opposition to RAWA came from CEI fellow Michelle Minton who penned a thorough paper debunking the claims of Adelson and others that RAWA would “restore” the Wire Act to its original intent, when in fact it seeks to rewrite the Wire Act – as Minton points out, there is nothing restorative about it.
Minton’s paper was later cited by a coalition of Conservative and Libertarian groups, including Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, who came out publicly against RAWA on November 20, just days after Libertarian champion Ron Paul called the bill the very definition of Crony Capitalism.
Earlier this week another high-profile group also expressed its opposition to RAWA, the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste.
This outspoken opposition was in response to mounting rumors, most instigated by Sheldon Adelson’s right-hand man Andy Abboud, that RAWA was being discussed behind closed doors and could be acted upon during the Lame Duck session.
Most of the rumors (and concerns that RAWA might find its way into a bill) centered around current Senate Majority Harry Reid (who will soon be relegated to Senate Minority Leader next month), whose close relationship with Adelson gave a certain air of legitimacy to the RAWA rumors. Especially with Reid likely facing a difficult reelection campaign in 2016.
With so many conflicting reports and potential channels for RAWA to sneak through, trying to read the tea leaves in the run-up to the Lame Duck and determine the fate of RAWA was anything but easy.
RAWA appears to be off-again
Now that the Lame Duck is actually upon us, journalists like Steve Tetreault have spent the last few days dutifully reporting on the last ditch lobbying efforts proponents and opponents of RAWA are undertaking, and it now appears that we have a solid indication that RAWA’s time as a possible Lame Duck surprise has come to an end.
As it stands, RAWA is nowhere to be found in the Cromnibus, and as Steve Tetreault and Howard Stutz reported:
“Seven sources on Capitol Hill and in the gaming industry said Monday they had knowledge that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has turned thumbs down on provisions sought by Adelson to reinstate a policy making it illegal to gamble using Internet technology. Two said they had knowledge Boehner called Adelson personally with his decision.”
The Poker Players Alliance is also reporting RAWA was not attached to the Cromnibus:
Of course there is still time for that to change. The Cromnibus won’t officially be passed until sometime next week.