RAWA and Other Dangers to US Online Poker

RAWA and Other Dangers to US Online Poker

Every few months, the poker community hears a whisper of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, more commonly known as RAWA. Its financier, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, regularly tries to push an anti-online gambling agenda through the politicians to whom he regularly donates campaign funds. He also uses his lobbying group, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, to scare the American public whenever possible by launching social media campaigns about children being encouraged to gamble.

Adelson and his minions also regularly push for the US Department of Justice to overturn the 2011 Wire Act decision that allowed states to legalize and regulate online poker and casino games as they wish. The most recent attempt was in August, when the lobbying organization sent former US Senator Blanche Lincoln to give it her best shot. She submitted an opinion piece to the Financial Times about the need to protect children and gambling addicts from online gambling, but it fell flat. Nothing came of it.

Rest assured, however, that Adelson is not giving up. Signs of his influence can be seen in various situations, but there are also other dangers to online poker’s future.

Until online poker is legal at the federal level – or until enough states legalize it and band together to support it – it will remain vulnerable to people vehemently opposed to the games like Adelson.

Online Poker Attacked at Sports Betting Hearing

On September 27, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing to discuss sports betting. The goal was to hear testimony regarding the possibility of federal regulations to oversee the new industry made possible by the May decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn PASPA. Some insisted that state-level regulations are sufficient, while others promoted the benefits of federal oversight.

One of the experts called to testify represented Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. According to CardPlayer, former Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning decided that the sports betting hearing was the perfect opportunity to talk about marijuana, online poker, and other online casino games as unconstitutional.

The example given by Bruning included marijuana legalized in Colorado being brought into Nebraska, where it is not legal, and overwhelming the law enforcement community. He then claimed that online sports betting will do the same harm.

“States like Nebraska, and others where online gambling is not legal, “he claimed, “have neither the resources nor the authority to protect their kids from nefarious illegal online gambling operations offering tempting games on their cell phones. Thus, states legalizing online gambling without preventing the online gambling from being offered in Nebraska are violating our 10th Amendment right to control gambling within our borders.” He also noted, “States are ill-equipped to enforce gambling laws against interstate and international companies.”

For the record, the states that are currently offering online poker and gambling use tried-and-tested geolocation technology to keep customers within their borders, as also happens with states offering online lottery ticket sales. There have been no recorded infractions to date.

The mere attempt of Bruning, on behalf of Adelson’s anti-online gambling lobbying group, to use scare tactics in a hearing about sports betting regulations – at such an early stage in the discussions – was clearly a sign of desperation. However, it is important for online poker advocates to note that the organization is active and trying to affect laws whenever possible.

Nevada Online Poker in Jeopardy?

The US mid-term elections have the potential to change the entire direction of American politics, but one state’s gubernatorial race could have particular online poker implications.

Nevada voters will choose a new governor on November 6, and the race is a tight one, as well as one of the most watched in America. Democratic candidate Steve Sisolak maintains a slight lead over Republican opponent Adam Laxalt, but most polls show the margin narrowing.

The danger to online poker comes from Laxalt, who has previously served as the state’s Attorney General and Gaming Commission Chairman. He publicly opposed online gambling on the basis that the industry is susceptible to money laundering, despite the fact that online poker has operated within Nevada for more than five years without incident. Laxalt also supports RAWA and has endorsed attempts to overturn the Department of Justice Wire Act decision of 2011. And it should come as no surprise that Laxalt’s campaign is financially supported by Adelson.

November Changes

The aforementioned mid-term elections may have an impact on internet poker, as well as all forms of online gaming and sports betting. The makeup of Congress could determine whether sports betting remains fully in the hands of each state or must operate under a federal framework. This could apply to online gaming as well.

The future of online poker is also in play in a number of states. Florida might put all gaming-related decisions in the hands of voters, while New York may elect a replacement for outgoing State Senator John Bonacic who continues to advocate for legal online poker. There are may states that will need to be reevaluated after the November 6 elections to reassess the viability of online poker expansion.



About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

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