Washington politicians seeking deliver on the crony benefit to Sheldon Adelson by passing legislation federally banning state-based internet gambling are expected to slip RAWA into the State Justice Commerce Appropriations bill in Congress next week. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) is expected to submit an amendment to the bill adding RAWA. This would be the latest of many attempts to enact the so-called Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) originally sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in March of 2014.
RAWA is named such because it’s sponsors claim it is “restoring” the 1961 Wire Act, which was never intended to regulate online gambling since the Internet did not exist in 1961. Enacting RAWA would extend the Wire Act to federally ban online gambling, something never intended by Congress in 1961 when the Wire Act was passed to prohibit sports betting over phone lines.
Adelson has donated millions to Republicans candidates seeking to have Congress pass RAWA because he sees online gambling as competition for his brick-and-mortar casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Just days after Adelson donated $20 million to the Senate Leadership Fund, to elect Republican candidates to U.S. Senate seats, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) also submitted a RAWA-like bill in the Senate.
Sponsors of RAWA have advanced a message of fear mongering in favor of RAWA, arguing that if one state legalized online gambling it would force legalized online gambling in all states. This argument failed when IT experts proved otherwise based on the experience of New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware, the three states that have legalized regulated online state-based gambling.
Rep. Chaffetz held a hearing, to build support for RAWA, before the House Oversight Committee he chairs, titled “A Casino in Every Smartphone.” The hearing was a huge win for opponents of RAWA. Experts involved in the implementation of state-based gambling testified on how technology allow the prohibition of citizens in states that ban online gambling while allowing participation by those who live in states where it is legalized. Additionally, advocates of limited Constitutional government made strong arguments on how a federal ban on online gambling violates the rights of states to set their own regulations and laws regarding online gambling. In the end, the hear not only failed to build support for RAWA, it made clear that RAWA had little support in Congress among members of either political party.
Many conservative and libertarian grass roots groups have come out strongly against
RAWA based on Constitutional and limited government grounds. More than 90 percent of those who participated in the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) opposed RAWA, echoing the strong grass-roots opposition to the proposed federal ban on gambling.
Online gambling has proven to be successful in the three states that have implemented it – New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware – all three have brought in substantial tax revenue from their allowance of regulated online gambling. At the same time, a federal ban on Internet-based gambling would adversely affect states like Georgia and Illinois, that have chosen to allow the sale of state lottery tickets online.
RAWA has failed to gain the support of more than a few Republicans in the nation’s capitol, and almost no popular support among voters. Simply put’ it’s a crony capitalism favor for nothing more than advancing the financial interests of billionaire Adelson and his casinos. Supporting this legislation is politically toxic for Republicans in Congress, given the strong opposition to it among voters and many conservative and libertarian groups. RAWA has failed many times and quite likely will be defeated yet again in the current session of Congress.