With Little Support In Sight, RAWA Proponents Try Yet Another New Way

RAWA Supporters “Refining” Their Position… Again

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With the arguments in favor of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) falling on deaf ears, and with the proposed federal online gambling ban becoming more and more of a non-issue, it appears its chief proponents, Sheldon Adelson and Las Vegas Sands, are slowly slinking away from the measure, but doing so in a way that allows them to save face.

That’s one takeaway from an article in Gambling Compliance where Las Vegas Sands’ Andy Abboud stated, “We haven’t backed off of our focus on [RAWA], but we need to find a way…to be able to shut down illegal offshore operators.”

Abboud’s comments to Gambling Compliance were made within the context of the trade publication noting that RAWA supporters were “refining their lobbying strategy,” shifting their focus away from a federal prohibition and towards shutting down illegal offshore sites.

Of course, Abboud still talked tough about RAWA, calling the recently espoused idea that the Judiciary may not hold a hearing on RAWA for optical reasons “nonsensical.”

Latest “refinement” not the first

However, it’s the notion that RAWA is somehow viable that appears to be nonsensical.

Since RAWA was introduced in 2014, the measure has failed to get itself covertly attached to large spending bills, and with its inability to rally support, the measure has gone through several iterations.

Widespread opposition made the 2014 versions of RAWA, as well as the 2015 House version of the bill virtually untenable. State lotteries, libertarian groups, and online gaming advocates teamed up to stop RAWA from being included in a Cromnibus spending bill that was passed during the 2014 lame-duck session.

With dwindling support, increased opposition, and RAWA hearings blowing up in supporters’ faces, the 2015 Senate Version of RAWA began making concessions for state lotteries in the hopes it would lead to their support. It didn’t.

Later in 2015 a new version of the bill, dubbed RAWA-lite, that would have put a multiyear moratorium on further online gaming expansion in place while the issue was studied in lieu of the previous calls for a federal prohibition was floated. And most recently, RAWA cosponsor Marco Rubio has indicated he might be open to a potential online poker carveout, which he considers a game of skill.

So the new “refinement” of the RAWA strategy is actually just its backers’ latest attempt to throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. Although this time it might actually stick, as cracking down on illegal online gambling sites is something everyone agrees on. But to actually bring this about, law enforcement will need the tools to go after these black market sites, and regulated alternatives will be needed to take their place.

Did recent AGA statements foretell this refinement?

It’s also interesting that this new position by RAWA supporters, cracking down on illegal offshore sites, is the AGA’s number one talking point when it comes to online gambling. Taken together, this shift by RAWA supporters and the recent comments made by the AGA, is perhaps signaling a not-so-subtle shift in the AGA’s online gaming position.

The group has been MIA on the issue since it decided to adopt a “no position” stance in order to prevent a splintering of its core members, following a rift within its ranks on the issue of online gambling.

But, as I first noted in July of 2015, the AGA appears to be covertly making the case for legal and regulated online gambling by making the case against the illegal operators, and simply stopping short of outwardly lobbying for legal online gambling. This leaves the question of what better options there are that could replace these illegal operators up to the audience, and the obvious landing spot is legal, regulated online gaming.

- 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.
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