As many of our readers know, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) has a renewed push in both the US Senate and House of Representatives as a result of recently proposed legislation.
RAWA, which would essentially ban most forms of i-Gaming on a federal level — including online poker — was reintroduced in February by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) as HR 707, and is also being co-sponsored in the Senate — S 1668 — by Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).
The bills are heavily backed by one of online poker’s greatest nemeses, Sheldon Adelson — owner of the Las Vegas Sands Hotel & Casino. Adelson is also the driving force behind the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG). Despite the broad-stroke organizational name, the CSIG has placed its support behind HR 707 and S 1668, both of which contain language that would designate carve-outs for certain forms of online gaming.
What are RAWA’s chances of becoming law in 2015-16?
Many hurdles exist for RAWA’s passage during the 2015-16 legislative session. For one, the US political environment is now in the midst of a presidential election cycle, with a new president set to be elected in November 2016. Presidential candidates in particular (both co-sponsors of the Senate bill are vying for the GOP presidential nomination) are inundated with election tasks during these cycles, and are hesitant to focus their efforts on controversial or low-priority issues — a federal ban is considered by many to fall under both categories.
Secondly, RAWA faces serious opposition, ranging from proponents of states’ rights to high-powered lobbying interests who stand to lose significantly if online poker does indeed receive an outright ban in the United States.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has repeatedly iterated his opposition to RAWA — comparing it to an infringement on states’ rights. Meanwhile, Republican Representatives Joe Barton and Ted Poe of Texas are also leading the charge against the passage of RAWA; with the former heralded as a champion of legalized online gaming in the United States. The bills are also opposed by powerful activist Grover Norquist and the American Conservative Union.
RAWA would also force current state-licensed online poker offerings in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware to come to a grinding halt while at the same time interrupting efforts to legalize virtual poker in several other key states, including California and Pennsylvania.
With that said, less likely scenarios have become reality when it pertains to the online poker industry. In 2006, after months of “insider” assurances to the contrary given to online poker media outlets, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) became law in an eleventh-hour addition to the Safe Port Act. Although UIGEA did not place an outright ban on online poker, it did complicate the deposit and cashout process for players and sites by requiring US banks to identify and restrict access to funds linked to US online poker activity.
Then in 2011 — this time after months of rumors within the online poker industry that something dire was set to occur — Black Friday became reality. Several high-traffic online poker sites which had previously operated in the United States were shut down and it took many online poker players years to recuperate funds that were held on then Full Tilt Poker. As a result, the current online poker environment in the US exists in three small player-pool state markets in conjunction with a hodge-podge of unregulated sites that operate without a license in the US.
To eventually become law, RAWA must pass both the US Senate and House of Representatives and then be signed by the President Obama. On the surface, the chances of that happening appear slim, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned as poker players and media representatives over the past decade, it’s that anything is possible when it comes to restricting online poker activity in the United States.
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