Lame Duck Online Gambling Ban Push Falls Short

Adelson-Backed Online Gambling Ban Dead, For Now

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The much-awaited cromnibus has been released and carries nary a mention of online gambling in its 1603 pages.

That’s despite the reportedly substantial effort by Sheldon Adelson to see the Restoration of America’s Wire Act – which would outlaw nearly all forms of regulated online gambling – attached to the behemoth spending bill.

RAWA unlikely to be attached to another bill

As reported by Steve Tetreault and Howard Stutz at the LVRJ, the cromnibus was the last likely vehicle for RAWA during the lame duck session:

Reid said Tuesday this year’s debate over online gaming essentially would be over if the spending bill was silent. It would be the third consecutive Congress that tried to form a federal strategy on legalized Web gambling only to fall far short of agreement or consensus.

“If we can’t get it into the omnibus, it won’t be in anything,” Reid said in a brief interview of the online prohibitions.

While nothing’s a dead certainty until the lights are off and the doors are locked for the year, the consistent refrain to me from sources close to the process was that the spending bill was the only viable lame duck path to law for RAWA.

Language targeting illegal sites was part of the mix

Multiple sources confirmed to me that, in addition to RAWA, statutory language providing federal officials with additional tools to target offshore operators was part of the cromnibus mix.

As the PPA’s John Pappas noted on Twitter, said language also failed to appear in the cromnibus.

I’ve yet to be able to track down the specific language that was suggested and I’m not clear on what role it played in the negotiations.

Adelson, supporters, will regroup and evolve their approach

While RAWA ran out of ramp in the lame duck, it’s unlikely to be the bill’s last gasp.

Adelson’s opposition to regulated online gambling has been public and full-throated, and there’s every reason to believe that he’ll dedicate significant resources to keeping the issue alive on the federal level in the next session of Congress.

But, given the setback in the lame duck and the steeply uphill federal path RAWA faces, I’d expect Adelson and his allies to retrain their efforts on the state level, especially in California and Pennsylvania.

The two are generally found on shortlists of states most likely to regulate online gambling in 2015.

Given the fractious nature of California’s gambling industry, Adelson wouldn’t have to have much success to stall the process of regulation, if not derail it outright.

And Adelson wields a more direct and powerful influence in Pennsylvania thanks to the Sands Bethlehem, by many measures the largest and most successful casino in the state.

- Chris is the publisher of Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.
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