RAWA Lite Legislation Emerging in the United States Congress
Sheldon Adelson appears to have shifted his goals from the passage of the original Restore America’s Wire Act (RAWA) to a less ambitious plan called “RAWA Lite”. The new proposed legislation is planned at building a firewall against states passing pro-online gambling legislation.
The new plan is more defensive in nature, seeking to control the spread of Internet gambling in the United States, instead of eliminating it everywhere. RAWA Lite would stop the legalization process for an indeterminate time, while one-sided scientific studies are conducted to reshape the debate in the U.S. Congress.
RAWA from 2014 to 2015
That debate has not gone well for Adelson’s forces so far. Since the spring of 2014, Sheldon Adelson’s allies in the United States Congress have tried to pass Restorate America’s Wire Act. The main champions for the bill are U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and U.S. Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, though roughly 15 other lawmakers have signed onto the bill in each house of Congress. Despite bipartisan support, the bill failed to reached the floor of the House of Representatives in December 2014, when Republican chairman Jim Sessions failed to support RAWA.
Conservatives Call Out Adelson
The GOP opposition is part of a pattern of pushback from the Republicans, whom Sheldon Adelson supports with big political contributions. A wide coalition of Republicans have argued against RAWA, because of the power it gives to the federal government over the rights of individual states. If RAWA were passed, the legalization process in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware would be rendered inert. A 50-state ban on online gambling would exist, enforced by the overarching power of the federal government.
Grover Norquist, Ron Paul, and Sen. Rand Paul are the most prominent Republicans to speak out against RAWA, claiming its passage would have profound implications for the power of the central government in Washington D.C. The common accusation made is that Sheldon Adelson, head of the most profitable brick-and-mortar casino empire in the world, is trying to expand the power of the Washington bureaucracy in order to squelch competition. The criticism is that Adelson is using the power of the federal government to create a monopoly on gambling for him and a few Las Vegas gaming companies, while the legislators who introduce his legislation are working under his orders, while taking his donations.
Moratorium and Studies
Faced with charges of “croney capitalism” even from the GOP ranks, Adelson’s allies began to push the alternative plan “RAWA Lite” as early as July, though details are starting to emerge in any great detail. The new bill would not ban online gambling. Instead, it would place a moratorium on the expansion of online gambling anywhere else in the United States. Essentially, no state could legalize online gambling, until studies are performed to see the impact of online gambling on the American people.
Now, a new set of studies would be conducted. With the Senate and House committees controlled by Adelson’s cronies being the one’s to conduct those policies, the new research likely would ask leading questions based on anti-online gambling assumptions to create a one-sided body of research. Having cooked the books, Sheldon Adelson’s congressmen then could return to the debate armed with more scientific-sounding arguments.
Freeze on New Online Gambling
The moratorium would also freeze legislation in 2015 and 2016, perhaps in the hopes of having a Congress more amenable to an anti-online gambling bill after the next presidential election. Republicans control both houses of Congress, but only by slim margins. With Barack Obama in the White House to veto any bills, the chances of passage would increase–so long as a Republican were sitting in the White House.
If a Republican candidate won the White House, it would be logical to assume that GOP congressional candidates would have done well in the 2016 elections, too. If so, then the US Congress likely would have more Republican votes, who might vote against gambling based on their social consevative opinions. Whether they would vote for a vast expansion of federal authority is uncertain, but that would appear to be the thinking behind the moratorium.
How RAWA Lite Might Help iGaming
RAWA Lite could be a boon to the forces supporting online gambling, though. In past cases such as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992, the states which already had legal gambling (in this case sports betting) were allowed to continue operations. More importantly for the expansion of interactive gaming, states which had not passed new laws were given a grace period in which to pass new laws, in order to gain the grandfather designation.
Thus, RAWA Lite might act as a spur to state legislatures to finally make a decision on online gambling. The legislatures in the states of California and Pennsylvania have dithered for the better part of 2 years, as various gaming interests and political interests fought to have their vision of interactive gambling passed.
California and Pennsylvania Remain Pivotal
Faced with the real possibility they could be shut out of the iGaming perpetually, California and Pennsylvania–and perhaps other states–might finally agree it is better for business to allow any form of online gambling to pass. Otherwise, those states might find themselves 15 to 20 years down the road facing a more expanded form of online and mobile gambling due to technological advances, but unable to raise revenues through those sources, because they failed to act now. Such was the case with New Jersey and sports betting, and it could be the case with any states failing to take advantage of a grace period.
The implications of RAWA Lite and a potential moratorium are in the speculative phase right now, but that is becoming much-speculated that a scenario like that could emerge. While Sheldon Adelson does not have the money or influence to get (most) Republicans to betray their conservative principles, an election year is coming and he might well have the influence to get a moratorium passed.