RAWA Supporters: We Mean What We Say, Except When We Don’t

April 6, 2015
RAWA Supporters: We Mean What We Say, Except When We Don’t

Following a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing they would just assume forget happened, RAWA supporters have started to regroup, and word around the campfire is the Senate version of the bill may soon be making an appearance.

The hearing, which many felt was stacked in favor of RAWA advocates, blew up in their faces when their ride or die witnesses decided to engage in some friendly fire, spending most of the hearing condemning not just online gambling, but virtually every form of gambling, which seemed to only strengthen the resolve of RAWA’s opponents, and potentially scare off allies.

But as bad as the hearing turned out to be for them, the early reports indicate Senator Lindsey Graham’s bill would attempt to do some damage control and placate state lotteries by carving out an exemption for online lottery sales.

It’s my opinion this attempt to rid themselves of a powerful opponent (state lotteries) might blow up in their faces even worse.

All of these exemptions are simply undermining their core arguments for the bill. And even though Americans will put up with a lot of hypocrisy in government, and lawmakers are more than willing to cast dubious votes, at some point, even in the halls of Congress, it simply gets to be too much.

From crazy statements by Andy Abboud and Willie Brown, to Lindsey Graham saying he’s never sent an email to the scary Cold War era videos they produce, it’s as if RAWA supporters get all of their ideas from Acme, and no matter how many times it explodes, they just keep reordering.

Lottery is one exemption too many

RAWA already exempts a few forms of online gambling, including online horse racing and Fantasy and Daily Fantasy Sports, as well as some charity gaming.

The Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978, along with the need to appease Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose home state of Kentucky is very reliant on the horse racing industry, made that carveout a no-brainer.

Fantasy Sports seems a little harder to explain until you realize how intertwined the very powerful, multi-billion-dollar professional sports leagues and Fantasy Sports have become.

And then there is online lottery, which is altogether different.

For one thing, in many instances, online lottery sales will be, or are, regulated by the same agencies that oversee online poker sites and online casinos.

It’s kind of hard to scoff at the Delaware Lottery’s ability to provide proper oversight for an online poker or casino site when you would trust them to do the same for online lottery sales.

Another problem with a lottery carveout is the creative way the Minnesota Lottery has debuted online scratch-off cards (Michigan has followed suit), which even online gaming advocates recognize as little more than online slots by a different name.

A lottery carveout would likely lead states further down this path, with online “lottery” offerings increasingly resembling casino games. As Chris Grove hypothesized, the enactment of RAWA would more or less only prohibit regulated online poker.

But it doesn’t end there.

RAWA isn’t about protecting the vulnerable

RAWA supporters would have you believe that online gambling leads to easy access for children, and because of this it needs to be banned. Their point of emphasis all along has been one of morals, and protecting the young and the vulnerable.

This would be a perfectly reasonable position to hold (even if it’s not particularly accurate) if these same people weren’t handing out exemptions like they were audience prizes on the last Oprah Winfrey show.

As noted, RAWA doesn’t ban Daily Fantasy Sports or online horse racing, and now there is talk that Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) Senate version of RAWA will also exempt state lotteries from the bill.

This lack of consistency undermines the argument that we need to limit online gambling because it offers easy access to kids and problem gamblers.

The truth is RAWA is not a moral crusade to protect children from the evils of online gambling. It’s a bill that would choose which forms of online gambling would be allowed to exist and which wouldn’t.

RAWA would simply pick the winners and losers in the online gambling sector.

And the losers all appear to be the direct competitors of Sheldon Adelson.

RAWA isn’t about preventing rampant gambling

On top of picking winners and losers, RAWA’s exemptions undermine a second tenet of the anti-online gambling crusaders. They like to say online gambling cannot be regulated (their words not mine) yet here they are perfectly happy to allow certain types of online gambling to be regulated.

Jason Chaffetz said it himself, “Does anyone realllllly think” a 16 year old could be stopped from getting around these safeguards?

Apparently Chaffetz was questioning himself, since he is one of the people that believes online gambling can be regulated. In Chaffetz’s version of RAWA, online horse racing and Daily Fantasy Sports have the appropriate safeguards in place to keep kids off and prevent them from “bleeding over” into Utah.

Otherwise why would his bill exempt them?

And Lindsey Graham appears to feel the same way about online lottery sales – they are perfectly safe and are capable of being regulated, unlike those online poker and online casino sites run by essentially the same companies and overseen by the same regulators.

The only other explanation for these carveouts would be Chaffetz, Graham, and company were doing so for purely political reasons.

And here is where I’ll mention horse racing, state lotteries, and fantasy sports (via pro sports leagues), have very powerful lobby groups capable of derailing RAWA.

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