Following the reintroduction of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) in the U.S. House of Representatives by Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the entire iGaming world expected Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to reintroduce RAWA into the U.S. Senate.
Graham has indicated he would be reintroducing the legislation he and Chaffetz first pushed for in 2014, presumably at the behest of Sheldon Adelson, who is widely believed to be the driving force behind RAWA. But up to this point, RAWA hasn’t returned for an encore appearance in the U.S. Senate.
There are several reasons Graham may have flinched on reintroducing an online gambling ban.
Reason #1: Lindsey Graham thinks he can be president
Lindsey Graham is officially running for President of the United States in 2016, and his platform seems to be aimed at single-issue voters.
The notorious Hawk has called for a return of U.S. troops to the Middle East and potentially decades of willing occupation and nation building. So much so that Graham recently stated, “Don’t vote for me if you’re worn out by war.”
It’s doubtful Graham wants to field questions on online gambling while he campaigns on his pro-war platform – although he could potentially use the false narrative that terrorists will use regulated online gambling sites to launder money as segue.
Furthermore, the sliver of the Republican electorate he is attempting to court is not exactly in favor of a protective government telling them what they can and can’t gamble on.
The only reason for Graham to push for RAWA would be to court favor with Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. But Graham has a lot of competition on that front in what is a quickly turning into a saturated Republican field.
Even if Graham does reintroduce the bill, it’s no sure bet Adelson will back what is fast becoming a negligible candidate thanks to his comments. Although the two are in lockstep on Israel and Middle East foreign policy, and Graham’s recent comments regarding Caitlyn Jenner are in line with the socially liberal Adelson’s views.
Reason #2: Candidates are distancing themselves from Adelson
Adelson’s money has always come with a bit of baggage attached, but the amount of baggage has increased of late. What used to be a carryon bag has become two checked bags.
Adelson money is plentiful, but it requires a lot of explaining away.
The catcalls of crony capitalism RAWA has received are a testament to the scrutiny these campaign contributions now face, and Adelson is currently embroiled in a court case in Nevada that accuses the billionaire casino owner of everything from mob ties to bribery.
So while California continues to debate tainted asset clauses as it pertains to PokerStars, for some Republican presidential candidates it may be Adelson’s campaign contributions that are the real tainted asset.
Reason #3: Graham is trying (unsuccessfully) to appease both sides
GamblingCompliance has been diligently reporting on the RAWA/lottery issue, and today GC has reported that Senator Graham has had multiple talks with state lottery official and close friend of Graham’s, Paula Harper Bethea, over a possible carveout in RAWA for lottery.
A lottery exemption is something Sheldon Adelson has stated he is not in favor of, considering Las Vegas Sands’ Andy Abboud told Gambling Compliance Adelson is “unlikely to accept exemptions.”
The idea of a lottery carveout being included in the Senate version of RAWA first surfaced in March, when GamblingCompliance quoted Graham as saying he isn’t trying to block online lottery sales.
Bethea echoed Graham’s statements from March this week, telling GC that barring online lottery sales isn’t Graham’s intent and the Senator wants to avoid unintended consequences. This could be why Graham has balked at reintroducing RAWA to this point.
Graham may be attempting to broker some type of lottery compromise between Adelson and state lottery officials.
Lottery officials are RAWA’s most powerful opponent
The potential carveout for lottery sales has long been an issue with RAWA’s language, and when Jason Chaffetz reintroduced the bill this year lottery officials went on the offensive.
The lottery factor came to a boil in the lead up to the RAWA hearing Chaffetz chaired in March. The hearing room was full of lottery officials according to Steve Tetreault of the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
— Steve Tetreault (@STetreaultDC) March 25, 2015
And these are the same lottery officials that took part in a contentious conference call with Chaffetz just weeks prior.
Several lottery directors have also independently spoken out against the bill:
In addition to potentially upsetting lottery officials in his home state, if Lindsey Graham reintroduces RAWA he will likely watch the focus of his presidential campaign shift from his foreign policy to explaining his connections with Sheldon Adelson and why he’s pushing for an unpopular bill that seems to be opposed by everyone except Adelson.
The combination of these two things could keep RAWA sidelined in the U.S. Senate. And while RAWA’s chance of passage are slim, they are virtually nonexistent without a lottery carveout.