Sheldon Adelson and his cohorts will not give up on their fight to ban online poker in the United States. Presidential hopeful and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has reintroduced the Restoration of America’s Wire Act into the United States Congress.
The new bill, officially S. 1668 has a virtual who’s who of politics supporting it. Among those supporting the bill are Republicans Marco Rubio, Dan Coats, Thom Tillis, Kelly Ayotte, Mike Lee and Democrat Dianne Feinstein. The purpose of the bill is to restore the interpretation of the Wire Act as was common before the December 2011 memo from the United States Department of Justice.
That memo stated that the Wire Act of 1961 was only applicable to sports betting and that ruling essentially opened the doors for states to legalize online poker and general iGaming. At present, only three states have legalized iGaming outside of the lottery but RAWA would also make online lotteries illegal.
Senate Version of RAWA has Lottery Carveout – Sorta
One of the major opponents of RAWA has been the lottery industry. RAWA would block lottery retailers from selling lottery tickets online, eliminating a potential future revenue source for many states.
Sen. Graham’s version actually includes a carveout for lotteries, but not what the industry had hoped for. Simply, RAWA would allow lotteries to use the internet to process lottery ticket sales but only if those sales originate from a B&M source. Virtual lottery tickets would still be prohibited.
This so-called carveout was not well received by state lotteries as some officials claimed that only some of their concerns were met. Should a more substantial carveout not develop in the future, this could be a future court battle should RAWA pass.
What About the House Version?
Other questions now arising is how Graham’s version of RAWA can co-exist with Chaffetz’s version. You may remember that Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz filed the house bill back in February and is on record as not supporting a carveout for lotteries. A well-publicized conference call between Chaffetz and state lottery officials further reinforced this as he told them to “file their own bill” rather than expect him to negotiate with them.
Graham and Chaffetz have yet to comment on the issue or if they have spoken to the other party regarding lotteries. One has to assume that the issue will be addressed sooner rather than later to assure that this doesn’t become a roadblock to passage. Such a roadblock would be ironic considering the one they have been trying to put in place for over two years.
Bill Not Likely to Pass But Could Come to Vote
Most online poker analysts will tell you that this bill has zero chances of passing but we hear the same song and dance in 2014 and by the Lame Duck there were many iGaming analysts worried about their futures. This time around, there is less of a hard line stance, but most do not believe that RAWA will pass due to the ties with Sheldon Adelson.
However, the scare tactics being employed by lawmakers could sway enough votes to move this legislation out of committee and towards a vote in both chambers. There doesn’t appear to be enough momentum to carry the bill to the President’s desk but a vote on the bill may be enough to scare industry lobbyists to reevaluate their strategies and formulate a new plan of attack to combat Sheldon Adelson.