PPA Begins to Dismantle Latest RAWA Attempt
Last week, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act reared its head again, this time in the form of a letter from two prominent United States senators. They asked the Department of Justice to reverse the 2011 decision that interpreted the Wire Act to allow states to legislate all forms of online gambling except sports betting. That Justice Department ruling allowed states to legalize and regulate online poker, casino games, and lottery sales, which has since happened in a number of states. As for online poker, Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey were recently joined by Pennsylvania in using that Wire Act interpretation to regulate the online games, with three of those four also adding internet casino games to the mix.
But no matter the status of the senators who wrote the most recent letter, it doesn’t negate the fact that many of the statements in said letter were erroneous. The Poker Players Alliance and others have stepped in to break down those errors.
Last week 2 U.S. Senators tried to breathe life back into the federal effort to strip state's of their authority to license and regulate online poker. It wasn't a very good letter, btw. pic.twitter.com/Hn3Kj8hF2v
— PokerPlayersAlliance (@ppapoker) November 28, 2017
Letter to Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein
US Senators Dianne Feinstein and Lindsey Graham sent a letter dated November 21 to US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein regarding the Wire Act. Normally, the letter would have been addressed to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but he was forced to recuse himself from all online gambling matters due to his close ties to Sheldon Adelson, a staunch opponent of online gambling.
The letter reminded the DOJ of their previous warning that every smartphone and tablet will become a casino and pointed to the recent decision by Pennsylvania to legalize online gaming as proof of their prediction coming to fruition. The bipartisan set of senators asked that the 2011 Wire Act decision be revisited and withdrawal, leaving the issue of online gambling to Congress. Essentially, they would like the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 to remain the prevailing law regarding online gambling.
The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) discovered and revealed the letter from Graham and Feinstein, and the organization released an official statement from Executive Director John Pappas a few days later:
“If they were handing out awards for congressional letters this one would win ‘Most Misleading’ in a landslide. Aside from the statement that Pennsylvania authorized online gaming and other states are considering it, there is nary a fact contained within the letter’s five paragraphs. Congress has given express authority to states to regulate iGaming, a detail that Senators Graham and Feinstein repeatedly ignore. Moreover, they continue to misrepresent an almost decade old FBI letter that does not address the realities of regulated online gaming. I suppose it’s easier to conflate reality with their own bias to continue making the same points, than actually own up to the fact that regulated iGaming is responsible public policy.”
Pappas felt it important to point out the errors in the letter, such as the rights of states to make their own online gaming choices, as well as the use of an FBI statement that is so outdated that it doesn’t take any technological advancements or facts about online gaming into consideration. One look at the New Jersey regulated online poker and casino game market would show them that regulations have been keeping players safe and properly identified.
BREAKING: Sens. Graham and Feinstein try to breathe life back into RAWA with their latest letter to DOJ: https://t.co/Bs3GB7XfjF
— PokerPlayersAlliance (@ppapoker) November 27, 2017
Other Lies, Errors, and Misrepresentations
By breaking down the letter, there are many things that can be proven to be erroneous and misleading.
“We warned that the DOJ opinion ‘could usher in the most fundamental change in gambling in our lifetimes by turning every smart phone, tablet, and personal computer in our country into a casino available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
The most fundamental change in gambling in our lifetimes is simply untrue, considering most casinos have been built in our lifetimes, online gambling became prevalent nearly 20 years ago on a global basis, and sports betting is the largest gambling enterprise in the world. The exaggeration of this entire statement is notable.
“The DOJ opinion had the practical effect of repealing legislation Congress carefully and thoughtfully enacted in 2006 to ban internet gambling…”
This is false. The UIGEA was attached to the SAFE PORT Act, a piece of must-pass legislation that few members of Congress would have voted against if they valued their careers. The UIGEA was passed late at night with no hearings, debate, or testimony from industry professionals and experts.
“Internet gambling takes gambling too far. It preys on children and society’s most vulnerable.”
This is also false. Regulated internet gambling prohibits children from accessing the online games, the ones that are more accessible via black-market sites that are not required to have the protections in place to identify players and verify their ages. In addition, internet gambling does not prey on anyone, particularly society’s most vulnerable, as there is nothing predatory about online gambling marketing and advertising in regulated markets. And even society’s most vulnerable can make their own decisions about when and where to spend their money, whether at brick-and-mortar casinos, online sites, or on lottery tickets available at every gas station and corner store.
“Of particular concern to us, as senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is whether the FBI has the resources to effectively oversee a robust internet gambling industry to assure online casinos are not being used for criminal activities, and to protect the interests of states that prohibit internet gambling.”
The FBI needs to do nothing of the sort, as online gambling is regulated by individual states. Each state establishes strict regulations and monitors the industry carefully, as demonstrated for several years by Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. Regulations are so strict that no criminal activity has been detected, and no other states have been even slightly impacted by the states’ decisions to legalize within their own borders.
“Concerns about the proliferation of internet gambling are bipartisan and span the political spectrum.”
The only Democratic member of Congress to expressly oppose internet gambling is Feinstein. All others who have tried to pass any legislation like the Restoration of America’s Wire Act or tried to reverse the 2011 DOJ decision have been Republicans, and almost every one of them has integral ties to Sheldon Adelson. In fact, the list of organizations and political entities that have opposed RAWA is much more bipartisan.
While these details may not matter if Rosenstein decides to revisit the DOJ decision and issue a new interpretation of the Wire Act, it is important to note that most opponents of online gambling do not present accurate, current, and factual arguments.