Online poker and iGaming in general are once again under attack at the federal level. On Wednesday, Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz reintroduced the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) in an attempt to make the majority of online gambling illegal. The bill was originally introduced last year by Chaffetz and Senator Lindsey Graham and is the brainchild of Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson.
What is RAWA?
At its core, RAWA seeks to rewrite the Federal Wire at of 1961 to clearly define its scope. Prior to December 23, 2011, the Wire Act was assumed to cover most any type of interstate gambling transaction and that included online gambling. However, a memo released by the Department of Justice on December 23, 2011 stated that the Wire Act only was applicable to sports betting.
Once this memo was released, Nevada immediately decided to explore the issue of online poker legislation. It took two years to legalize the game and the state went online in 2013. Joining them that year were New Jersey and Delaware. Both celebrated their one-year anniversary in the industry in late 2014.
RAWA would make most forms of online gambling illegal, including online lotteries. The primary exemptions to this bill are fantasy sports betting and wagering on horse racing.
RAWA Will Reverse State Legislation Already Passed
RAWA will not simply make online gambling illegal for those that don’t have it but it would also reverse any online gambling laws passed in other states prior to its passage. That means that online poker in Nevada would become illegal as well as iGaming in Delaware and New Jersey.
Furthermore, any states currently selling lottery tickets online would be forced to shut down operations. In-person lottery ticket sales by a computer are exempted from the bill but online sales are not. States such as Georgia would love a vital asset for funding education if this bill passes.
Should New York lawmakers later this year decide to move forward with a bill to legalize online poker, RAWA would make their efforts futile.
Now is the Time to Stop RAWA
The Restoration of America’s Wire Act threatens to take a law targeted specifically at illegal sports betting and turn it into a weapon against online gambling. In addition, it threatens the sovereignty of states as it strips them of the ability to decide whether they want online poker in their state.
If you’re a support of online poker or even just a supporter of state’s rights, then make your voice heard when it comes to RAWA. Write your Representatives and Senators and ask them to vote NO should the bill ever reach a Congressional floor. Remind them that New York wants the choice whether or not to legalize iPoker.
Do not be deceived, the threat here is very real. RAWA was nearly attached to legislation last fall during the Lame Duck session of Congress and the fact that it has resurfaced means that there are supporters that will back Sheldon Adelson’s play. Tell your Congressmen that Adelson doesn’t own New York and that you want online poker in your state.