Supporting Online Gambling Ban All The Rage Among Senators Eyeing White House

June 25, 2015
Supporting Online Gambling Ban All The Rage Among Senators Eyeing White House

Senator and presidential hopeful Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced a Senate version of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) on Wednesday.

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) are cosponsors. It is a companion bill to one sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in the House.

The bill introduced by Sen. Graham mirrors the House version in most ways. It would roll back federal law to an interpretation held by online gaming opponents dating back to last decade. It would exempt activities permitted in section 5362(1)(E) of title 31.

These are the carve outs allowed under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, including fantasy sports, skill games, and horse racing.

Expected lottery carveout is present in Senate version

Sen. Graham’s version made one small concession to state lotteries. Under the Senate version, language was added to permit:

The ability of a State licensed lottery (including in conjunction with its supplier) or State licensed retailer to make on-premises retail lottery sales, including through a self-service retail lottery terminal, or to transmit information ancillary to such sales (including information relating to subscriptions or fulfillment of game play), in accordance with applicable Federal and State laws.

This language would only permit the use of the Internet when processing lottery transactions at a retailer. This bill would not permit the sale of lottery tickets over the Internet, reversing a trend to online sales.

It would also ban instant games currently spread in Georgia and Michigan by state lotteries. State lottery directors have already voiced opposition to any federal law that would preempt the ability to operate games or sell tickets over the Internet.

There is concern that the House version of RAWA would prohibit mobile sports betting in Nevada. Graham’s version does not address this and only offers this exemption for live casinos:

The ability of a State licensed gaming establishment or a tribal gaming establishment to transmit information assisting in the placing of a bet or wager on the physical premises of the establishment, in accordance with applicable Federal and State laws.

Charitable gaming is also exempted, as permitted by state and federal law.

Statement from Poker Players Alliance

It did not take long for the Poker Players Alliance to return fire.

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 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.”

RAWA is stalled in committee in the House and there is little discussion about its advancement at this time.

The exclusion of state lotteries and the lack of a grandfather clause for existing online gaming in Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey make RAWA a tough sell, especially to lawmakers that represent these states or push the states’ rights agenda.

No committee hearing on the Senate version of RAWA has been scheduled at this time.

Image Katherine Welles /

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