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The Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) is back, courtesy of United States Senator and failed presidential candidate Lindsey Graham. Since quitting the campaign, backing other failed candidates, and refusing to back the Republican’s presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, Graham is ready to return to the work of the people. Well, at least to the work of big-money political donor Sheldon Adelson.

sheldon adelson and lindsey graham


Numerous attempts to ban online gambling by way of a federal law have failed, but Adelson – errr, Graham – is not giving up yet. He has added some of the RAWA language to the most recent Senate Appropriations funding bill report. This may not sound as threatening as past efforts, but that may be the secret to its potential success.

Graham Not so Keen on States’ Rights?

Senator Graham is a staunch Republican, and the GOP platform clearly asserts support of states’ rights in all possible instances. Even though three states – New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware – have already decided to legalize and regulate online poker and/or gambling, and numerous other states – Michigan, California, Pennsylvania, et al – are considering doing the same, RAWA is a tool to remove those rights with regard to online gaming.

Essentially, RAWA seeks to add wording to the Interstate Wire Act of 1961. In its original wording the Wire Act criminalizes betting or wagering using wired communication. However, since online gambling is mostly wireless in today’s world, RAWA would specify Wire Act language to simply ban most forms of online gambling on the federal level, nixing state laws in the process.

Why would Graham support something so gravely opposed to his party’s core beliefs? Casino mogul and multi-billionaire Sheldon Adelson is a force in politics, and he is determined to outlaw online gambling in any way possible. His money has influence over politicians, and Graham seems to be the puppet for this Adelson project.

Remember the Times RAWA Failed?

There were many of them. Online Poker Report remembers them quite well. The last serious attempt came in 2015, when US Rep. Jason Chaffetz – another “friend” to Adelson – pushed RAWA all the way to a Congressional hearing. The US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee heard testimony that was geared toward influencing committee members to oppose online gambling.

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Instead, however, thanks to witnesses like Nevada State Senator Mark Lipparelli, the tone of the hearing changed to favoring legislation that regulates online gaming in order to best protect consumers. Some of the members of the committee also questioned RAWA’s ability to infringe upon states’ rights. When the gavel dropped to close the hearing, it was widely assumed that RAWA was dead… again.

Most assumed that the topic was going to be off the radar of most members of Congress this year due to political campaign season and the lunacy that is the US presidential race. It is now clear, though, that Adelson had no intention of putting RAWA on the back burner, only waiting for the right moment for a sneak attack.

Time to Worry

Obviously, RAWA’s track record is not good. And Congress’ ability to do virtually anything has come into question in recent years.

This is why the online poker and gaming communities need to be on high alert.

Adelson and friends likely believe that most politicians are focused on elections and reelections and all of the pertinent campaigns. They also know that there is not overwhelming support for RAWA as a stand-alone piece of legislation. Thus, when most aren’t looking, this is the perfect time to slip it into a funding bill, something that will need to pass under some circumstances with little attention paid to fine print about an issue that is not important to most voters.

This is also a great time for someone like Graham to show his allegiance to Adelson. While he won’t face another challenge to his Senate seat until 2020, he may have other political aspirations, and he definitely has campaign bills to settle from his most recent presidential run. No matter the reason, it is always a good time to have Adelson’s money in one’s political pocket.

Poker players should stay informed and ready to act. This could be another failed RAWA attempt by a rich, old geezer, but it could also be a well-timed blow to our rights.

In 2006, the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act was attached to a must-pass port security bill. It passed, and despite reports of ambiguous wording and a lack of power behind the UIGEA, it had worse effects on the poker industry than most thought possible.

With that in mind, we probably shouldn’t ignore this RAWA move.

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.