Sheldon Adelson’s RAWA May Have a Better Chance of Clearing the House Judiciary Committee Than You Think

Bob Goodlatte Screencap
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If you’re an advocate for regulated online gambling, the recent report from GamblingCompliance that the House Judiciary Committee may hold a hearing for HR 4301 – also known as the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, or simply RAWA – should be extremely concerning.

Here’s why.

History of RAWA in the House of Representatives

In the immediate period following its introduction on March 26, 2014, HR 4301 pretty much collected dust.

But in the intervening months RAWA has quietly picked up more supporters.

Over the summer, the measure attracted nine new co-sponsors, bringing the total number of sponsors and co-sponsors up to 19:

Original co-sponsors (not including Jason Chaffetz):

  1. Cleaver, Emanuel [D-MO]
  2. Franks, Trent [R-AZ]
  3. Gabbard, Tulsi [D-HI]
  4. Holding, George [R-NC]
  5. Jordan, Jim [R-OH]
  6. Lankford, James [R-OK]
  7. Matheson, Jim [D-UT]
  8. Smith, Lamar [R-TX]
  9. Wolf, Frank [R-VA]

Co-sponsors added between June 19 and July 22:

  1. Dent, Charles [R-PA]
  2. Rogers, Mike [R-MI]
  3. Forbes, Randy [R-VA]
  4. Gowdy, Trey [R-SC]
  5. King, Steve [R-IA]
  6. Lipinski, Daniel [D-IL]
  7. Gohmert, Louie [R-TX]
  8. Richmond, Cedric [D-LA]
  9. Bachus, Spencer [R-AL]

Of note is where these supporters are coming from, as more than half of the RAWA co-sponsors come from a single House committee: The House Judiciary Committee, which is the committee HR 4301 was referred to when it was first introduced – and where the bill sits now.

Judiciary Committee short on iGaming champions

The House Judiciary Committee membership looks a lot like a who’s who of anti-gambling crusaders, starting with the Chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

Goodlatte was one of the authors of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) and introduced a separate online gambling prohibition in 2006 as well – HR 4777.

Perhaps because of his states’ rights ideology, Goodlatte has not co-sponsored HR 4301 at this point. But we do not know if states’ rights or his aversion to online gambling will win out in the end.

In addition to Goodlatte you have longtime online gambling nemesis Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) who famously called online poker the “crack cocaine” of gambling, and the “worst form of gambling” during a hearing of the House Financial Services committee back in 2010 when Barney Frank was pushing for online legalization.

Bachus co-sponsored Goodlatte’s H.R. 4411, the Goodlatte-Leach Internet Gambling Prohibition Act that later became UIGEA, and has been one of the staunchest opponents of online gambling in Congress ever since.

On top of Bachus and Goodlatte, a total of 11 of the 39 members of the House Judiciary Committee have co-sponsored RAWA.

On the opposite side of the ledger, there isn’t a single member of the House Judiciary Committee that has come out in favor of online gambling, nor is there anyone that seems likely to be well-versed on the issue that could push back against some of the rhetoric that will certainly be spouted by the anti-gambling crowd should the hearing take place.

Most of the membership are from red or purple states (my calculations have just 10 members hailing from solid Blue States).

And there’s no Judiciary Committee member hailing from New Jersey, Nevada or Delaware, the three states that have passed and launched online gambling.

Also of note:

  • California (seriously considering online poker) is well represented with four members.
  • Pennsylvania (seriously considering online gambling) has a single representative.
  • Georgia (approved online lottery) has two members.
  • Illinois (approved online lottery) has one member.

Upshot: The House Judiciary Committee is heavy on anti-online-gambling members and extremely light on members from states with forms of online gambling.

GovTrack sees a path forward for the bill

GovTrack.US currently assigns RAWA a 21% chance to pass committee and a 7% chance to be enacted.

While this may sound promising for those opposing RAWA, consider that only 11% of bills pass committee and only 3% are enacted. HR 4301 is twice as likely as the median to pass committee and be enacted, at least per GovTrack.us.

And it’s unclear how much, if any, weight GovTrack.US assigns the support from Sheldon Adelson and his Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, or the lame duck element of the process.

RAWA still unlikely to become law

Still, don’t let your concern turn into despair.

For one thing, GamblingCompliance suggested that the proposed hearing could be more symbolic than substantive.

As GC notes, the hearing could be little more than a gesture of goodwill towards Sheldon Adelson (one of the largest GOP donors).

And what if it’s something more?

If the measure does pass in the House it would still need to move through the Senate, where Adelson would need the blessing of Harry Reid to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote – not to mention the support of a number of Senators whose hold on power was directly assailed by Adelson’s dollars in the midterms.

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Steve Ruddock
- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.