Possible Federal Online Gambling Ban Rears Its Ugly Head Again

May 11, 2016
Possible Federal Online Gambling Ban Rears Its Ugly Head Again

Many observers thought we witnessed the death of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act in December, during a House committee hearing in December.

But the potential federal online gambling ban reared its ugly head yet again, in a backdoor manner.

The last time we heard from RAWA

When Rep. Jason Chaffetz held a hearing looking into online gambling in the U.S., it was considered an abject failure in most corners.

The hearing went so badly for Chaffetz and proponents of a total ban of U.S. online poker and gambling, it was difficult to believe it would ever be considered again.

We should probably know better at this point — after all, RAWA efforts have been going on for the better part of two years. And the person bankrolling it — casino mogul Sheldon Adelson — still has lots of money for one of his pet projects.

Where RAWA surfaced this time

The sneaky attempt to advance the anti-online gambling sentiment came via an appropriations bill in the Senate — a place where it doesn’t really belong. It was put there by Sen. Lindsey Graham, a RAWA sponsor.

RAWA, itself, is not actually in the funding measure, but this paragraph is:

“Internet Gambling.—Since 1961, the Wire Act has prohibited nearly all forms of gambling over interstate wires, including the Internet. However, beginning in 2011, certain States began to permit Internet gambling. The Committee notes that the Wire Act did not change in 2011.”

It’s just a declaration — not something that would become a law. The idea appears to be to pass a bill with language supporting the idea behind RAWA, then point to that if and when RAWA gets another day in the sun.

A report from GamblingCompliance (paywall) from last month notes that it is “unclear” if the language would realistically help RAWA.

The need to be vigilant on RAWA

If nothing else, the sneak attack from Graham on online gaming serves as a wakeup call to iGaming and iPoker proponents. Other than the GC report, this language was pretty much off everyone’s radar until this week.

Getting to an environment where online gaming is widely available in the U.S. is still a long ways off. But that road would become even more difficult to travel — or perhaps entirely unfeasible — if RAWA ever becomes law.

Advoacy efforts against RAWA have largely been effective. But every move made by Graham and Chaffetz needs to be watched with an eagle eye by the Poker Players Alliance and the poker media, lest RAWA picks up any steam.

The incursion here by Graham seems pretty minor on the surface. Right now, no one other than a few Adelson cronies and some Republicans in his pocket (or opposed to gambling on moral grounds) is on board with a complete iGaming ban.

The trick is getting it to stay that way.

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