Democrat State Senators Write Letter to US Lawmakers Asking for a “No” Vote on RAWA

The New York Daily News reported last Friday that a group of Democratic New York State Senators penned a letter to their fellow members of Congress, calling for them to vote against Restoration of America’s Wire Act. RAWA, which is labeled HR 707, is a bill to ban online casinos and poker sites throughout the United States.

The small group of Democratic lawmakers includes state Senators Tony Avella of Queens, David Carlucci of Rockand County, Jeffrey Klein of the Bronx, Diane Savino of Staten Island, and David Valesky of Syracuse. They penned the letter to members of the US Congress from New York state. Lawmakers from both parties were contacted.

State’s Rights Issue

The letter tells the politicians who will vote on RAWA that gaming laws should be left up to individual states to decide. If Restore America’s Wire Act, the federal government would acquire the power to decide online gambling laws across 50 states. Passing such a law is seen as an attack on state’s rights and individual right’s, as well. For the states, RAWA would mean that the federal government had the ability to determine gaming laws and Internet laws inside individual states–or at least would have precedents on their side when trying to do so in the future. For individual rights, it would mean that federal agencies could tell American citizens which hobbies they could have, even if those hobbies harmed no one.

The group, called the Independent Democratic Council or IDC, says that such a law is a dangerous and overarching precedent to set. The IDC’s letter stated, “usurps New York’s ability to determine for itself what forms of gambling are authorized within the state, a right which New York and every other state has historically exercised.

Restore America’s Wire Act

Restore America’s Wire Act was introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, in the House of Representatives. The bill was introduced in the US Senate by Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina and a 2016 Presidential hopeful. Chaffetz and Graham argue they are protecting state’s rights by enacting the federal law.

Their argument centers on their respective state’s laws which ban online gambling. They say New Jersey online gambling impinges on anti-gambling laws in South Carolina and Utah, because anyone in their state with a smartphone could gamble on the New Jersey online casinos and card rooms. Critics of Chaffetz and Graham point out that geolocation software assures that gamblers must be inside the boundaries of New Jersey in order to gamble at the licensed and regulated sites.

Sheldon Adelson’s Brainchild

RAWA is seen by most Beltway insiders as the personal brainchild of Sheldon Adelson, the chairman of Las Vegas Sands Corporation. Adelson is the richest gaming executive in the world, worth about $28 billion from his control of casinos in Las Vegas, Bethlehem (Pennsylvania), Singapore, and Macau, China. Despite his vast wealth taken from gamblers, Adelson claims he wants a comprehensive ban on online gambling in the United States to protect problem gamblers and underage gamblers.

Sheldon Adelson was the largest single donor to Republican candidates in the 2012 Presidential Election, with over $90 million donated to the Republican Party in one form or another. He is expected to be one of the largest donors in the 2016 election cycle, too, perhaps second only to the Koch Brothers. It is suggested Adelson will donate over $100 million to the GOP this time around. Therefore, presidential candidates like Lindsey Graham have major incentive to do Adelson’s bidding, while other Republican candidates probably do not want to offend the benefactor.

Republicans Against the RAWA

Despite that knowledge, the letter from the New York Senate’s IDC has a better chance of finding bipartisan support than most such proposals. Several influential Republicans are among the most vocal critics of Sheldon Adelson’s anti-gambling bill. Kentucky Senator and 2016 GOP presidential hopeful Rand Paul, former Texas representative Ron Paul, and anti-taxation and NRA power broker Grover Norquist all have come out against Restore America’s Wire Act, citing many of the same arguments the IDC have used.

The New York lawmakers are not the only ones to speak out against Restore America’s Wire Act. Pennsylvania state senators also wrote a letter calling for a vote against RAWA. That letter said, “That the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania implore the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation to unequivocally oppose H.R. 707, which would unduly ban Internet gaming and violate the rights and protections guaranteed to the states under the 10th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States

RAWA Vote Later This Year

The RAWA vote is expected sometime this year, though some wonder whether it ever receives a vote on the floors of Congress. Legislative groups who follow Washington DC bills have given RAWA between a 1% and 7% chance of being passed into law. Under those circumstances, many lawmakers would not want to see their bill go down to ignominious defeat.

The controversy over online gambling began in 2011, when state lottery officials from New York and Illinois asked the Department of Justice for an opinion on which forms of online gambling were banned under the 1961 Wire Act. The Justice Department reversed course on interpretations from 2007 to 2011, when online sportsbooks, casinos, and card rooms all were seen as illegal (or financial transactions on those sites were illegal). Once Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware passed laws allowing online gambling sites under certain conditions, Sheldon Adelson began to call for a comprehensive ban. His money and influence have brought the RAWA bill to the subcommittees of US Congress.

About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on BestOnlineCasinos.com, USPokerSites.com, and LegalUSPokerSites.com

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