New York Assemblyman Rails Against RAWA: “Prohibition Doesn’t Work”

July 27, 2015
New York Assemblyman Rails Against RAWA: “Prohibition Doesn’t Work”

New York Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow has been at the forefront of online gaming expansion talks in New York State. Pretlow introduced a bill that would have legalized online poker in 2014, and while he didn’t reintroduce the measure this year, his belief in online gaming expansion seems resolute.

On Thursday, Pretlow authored an op-ed in Roll Call in which he derided federal attempts to ban online gambling, specifically citing the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) a bill widely believed to have been crafted by billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson that was introduced in both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate by Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) respectively.

Pretlow wants to leave the decision in each state’s hands, rather than have the federal government make a blanket judgment, particularly when it goes against the wishes of many states.

“New York, and every state, deserves to be able to determine what gaming exists within its borders and how it is regulated,” Pretlow stated, adding, “we always have had that right and it defies logic that Congress would step in now to undercut it.”

Tax revenue, consumer protections, and enforcement

In his op-ed, Pretlow cites three reasons states are considering online gaming legislation.

The first and most obvious reason is that online gaming offers states a way to raise additional revenue through licensing fees and taxation.

Pretlow’s second argument in favor of state-level legalization has to do with consumer protections.

Pretlow notes that geolocation technology and player verification checks have been “enormously successful.” Something statements by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement confirm.

“Were RAWA to pass,” Pretlow writes, “we’d have no such technology to help keep vulnerable consumers safe.”

Earlier news on Thursday supported Pretlow’s comments, as the operators of an illegal offshore online casino were arrested for (among many charges) allegedly using the online operation to launder illicit funds. This same group is known in the industry for not paying winners and using many underhanded tactics to fleece its customers.

Pretlow’s final reason for favoring legalization is that it would allow law enforcement to crack down on fraudulent activity of illegal operators.

This improved enforcement capabilities is on full display in New Jersey, where the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, along with the Department of Justice, has been able to threaten legal action against online operators.

This has forced all but the most resilient of these operators out of New Jersey, while at the same time these sites continue to operate in other states with little fear of prosecution.

What RAWA would do

As Pretlow went on to note, RAWA would have the opposite effect its advocates claim.

Instead of protecting minors and problem gamblers from predatory forms of gambling, a prohibition on state-regulated online gaming sites would in fact open these vulnerable groups up to predatory sites, which operate in far-flung locales across the globe with zero oversight.

“Prohibition doesn’t work, it merely exposes children and consumers to a system primed to exploit them,” Pretlow argues. “If we can find a way to promote economic growth and protect consumers, we should do it.”

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