The Sheldon Adelson-backed drive to outlaw regulated online gambling appears to be widening in scope to include not only real-money, but social casino play.
That’s per comments from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) surrounding his re-introduction of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA).
“If you go look right now, you’ll see they have successfully blurred the lines,” Chaffetz said at a press conference announcing RAWA’s return.
“You’ll see in one instance Wizard of Oz characters being used to encourage young kids to play the slots.”
That “one instance” Chaffetz refers to is almost certainly Zynga’s Wizard of Oz slot – a slot machine that does not pay out any real-money prizes.
The comments are not the first time Chaffetz has conflated social casino games (games where players can buy chips, but never cash out) with real-money online casino play.
Chaffetz singled out social casino site Slotomania (operated by Caesars) in an anti-online gambling cover piece for Newsweek in August 2014.
And former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown – who has been retained by the Adelson-backed Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling – has similarly linked social casino and real-money games.
In the status quo, social casino games are not overseen by gambling regulators, and no operator (that I’m aware of) has found themselves the target of state law enforcement over gambling law violations.
But the debate over whether or not such games constitute gambling is an open one. And social casino products like myVEGAS – where players can earn free play at a live casino as one of the rewards – are arguably blurring the line between social and real-money.
Should that line vanish at the state level, RAWA could be brought to bear on social casino games.
In any case, even the suggestion that such games could be in the legislative crosshairs should be enough to marshal opposition to RAWA from a wide array of companies – including sizeable entities with no primary connection to gambling like EA and Zynga.
Consider these charts (via Playtika’s Elad Kushnir) summarizing the landscape and size of the industry: