Is RAWA Still a Serious Threat to Online Poker?

4 years ago
RAWA language creeps into federal bill
15 May

To the uninitiated or those without an eagle-eye for details, South Carolina’s Republican Senator Lindsey Graham’s appropriations bill in the Senate would have passed by with nobody in the poker world being any the wiser.

Thankfully, there are people out there watching every move of the RAWA-supporting politicians and their well-funded friends.

RAWA, for those who haven’t heard of it, is the Restoration of America’s Wire Act – aimed at restoring the Federal Wire Act of 1961 with the intention of banning the majority of online gambling –whether individual states have legalised and regulated it or not.

Graham’s latest Bill included the following paragraph:

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.”

Hmmm, a strange thing to include in what was essentially a funding bill – and not something which Graham is directly able to see enacted as law – but for those among the poker community who are keeping a close eye on such things, it is seen as an attempt to introduce language of the sort designed to back future RAWA bills.

Late last year Graham introduced a similar Bill, S1668, which had the backing of then Presidential-hopeful Marco Rubio, the latest in a long line of attempts to force through the highly-controversial attack on certain forms of online gaming and gambling.

In the perverse logic of the supporters of RAWA, certain things will be exempt from the ban: DFS being one of them.

As onlinepokerreport have covered previously, RAWA would exempt “any activities set forth in section 5362(1)(E) of title 16 31” (aka the UIGEA exemptions) from the definition of “bet or wager” in the Wire Act. Such activities include fantasy sports betting, insurance, and securities.” Also exempt would be online wagering on horse-racing.

The main player behind these legal attempts is the casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, a man seemingly intent on forcing his will upon the online gambling world. A recent hearing which had his support, introduced by Republican Senator Jason Chaffetz from Utah, was, however, stopped by an enthusiastic and well-informed opposition.

Chaffetz, a close friend of Adelson, opened with a rambling and fact-free 10-minute statement, including: "Now, anything connected to the Internet, desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, no matter your age, is becoming a casino," said Chaffetz.

"I've got a problem with that. I think the American people have a problem with that." Well, not so it would seem, with state regulation advancing and finding support in many parts of the US - the latest being Michigan’s push for regulation, expected to be enacted later this year.

"I have no doubt that you believe in your testimony, but I do have to point out that parts of your testimony are simply wrong," Democrat Senator Ted Lieu said of Chaffetz’s main supporting witnesses at the hearing, only one of many attacks on the poorly-founded RAWA arguments.

So, the unexpected and strangely-placed wording in Graham’s recent bill is a long way off from the RAWA hearings and senate bills of the last few years, but it’s always a good idea to keep on top of the enemy’s thinking and methods, particularly when they try establish such a subversive foothold.

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Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more


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