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The reintroduction of HR 707, Restoration of America’s Wire Act, also known as RAWA, by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) marks the arbitrary starting point for what will almost certainly be another year of debate between people pushing for the legalization and regulation of online gaming and the people hoping to outlaw online gaming.

2014 saw the poker community reacting to a myriad of attacks by Sheldon Adelson and his lobby group the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, along with his political allies. At first our responses were akin to a game of whack-a-mole, but by late 2014 our arguments started to become more focused and better resonated.

So my suggestion is to continue this focused approach, and use the following tactics during this fight, particularly when we contact our elected representatives.

Issue #1: Crony capitalism

RAWA has been called “the worst kind of crony capitalism,” by former Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul, by the conservative news outlet Red State, and many others, considering Sheldon Adelson appears to be the singular driving force behind the effort, both in funding the effort and assembling political allies.

Take Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for example (Graham introduced RAWA in the Senate in 2014 and has stated he will reintroduce it in 2015); a man who had zero public thoughts on online gambling up until last year.

As noted last year, Adelson’s contributions to Graham have dramatically increased since 2013:

“But last year, the Adelsons anted up big for Graham… Sheldon and Miriam each gave $7,800 contributions to Graham’s campaign committee in May 2013 (both were refunded $2,600 of that, as the total exceeded federal limits)…

“… Las Vegas Sands PAC sent an additional $5,000 contribution to Team Graham — the legal maximum. And on April 30, 2013, the Adelsons hosted a high-dollar fundraiser for Graham at their Venetian hotel in Las Vegas… The event, which cost $1,000 to attend, exclusively benefited Graham’s re-election campaign.”

And then there is Jason Chaffetz’s Adelson ties. Or, as reported:

“Chaffetz is going to Las Vegas this weekend and said he wanted to see Adelson, but he’s out of town. When a reporter asked where he’s staying, Chaffetz replied with a smile, “The Palazzo,’ a Las Vegas Sands property.”

On its surface this appears to be little more than quid pro quo politics, and it’s easy to see why RAWA gets tagged as crony capitalism.

This is an issue we should bring up any chance we get.

Crony capitalism is an accusation that no elected politician wants to find in the same sentence as their name, and I doubt any of RAWA’s cosponsors – you know, these people listed below – will want to answer questions on why they support a federal online gambling ban instead of allowing states to make decisions on gambling, which they should.

Rep Dent, Charles W. [PA-15]

Rep Forbes, J. Randy [VA-4]

Rep Franks, Trent [AZ-8]

Rep Gabbard, Tulsi [HI-2]

Rep Holding, George [NC-13]

Rep King, Steve [IA-4]

Rep Smith, Lamar [TX-21]

Issue #2: Powerful groups oppose RAWA

RAWA may have mega-donor Sheldon Adelson in its corner, but the opposition lined up on the other side isn’t a bunch of no names. From Ron Paul to Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform to FreedomWorks, and from Democratic lawmakers Jared Polis (CO) and Steve Cohen (TN) to the Poker Players Alliance, RAWA is pitted against a broad and powerful coalition of opposition.

Since facts and logic aren’t getting through, maybe some good old-fashioned political pressure will. If your representatives are Republicans and support RAWA (see the list of RAWA cosponsors above, or last year’s longer list of cosponsors) it might be a good idea to let them know what politically powerful groups oppose the measure, and that there will be political consequences if they vote for RAWA.

Sheldon Adelson is a nice ally, but not if it means you fall out of favor with the following groups and people.

In April of 2014, FreedomWorks was one of 10 groups that sent a letter to Congress opposing RAWA.

· Joe Jansen, Alliance for Freedom

· Steve Pociask, President, American Consumer Institute

· Michelle Minton, Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute

· Matt Kibbe, President, FreedomWorks

· Coley Jackson, President, Freedom Action

· Carrie Lukas, Managing Director, Independent Women’s Forum

· Andrew Langer, President, Institute for Liberty

· Tom Giovanetti, President, Institute for Policy Innovation

· Eli Lehrer, President, R Street Institute

· David Williams, President, Taxpayer Protection Alliance

On November 20, 2014, 12 conservative groups (including several that signed the April letter) sent another letter to the leadership of Congress, once again opposing RAWA:

· Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform

· Larry Hart, Director of Government Relations, American Conservative Union

· Steve Pociask, President American Consumer Institute

· John Tate, President Campaign for Liberty

· Lawson Bader, President, Competitive Enterprise Institute

· Andrew Langer, President, Institute for Liberty

· Gov. Gary Johnson, Honorary Chairman, Our America Initiative

· David Williams, President, Taxpayers Protection Alliance

· Katie McAuliffe, , Executive Director, Digital Liberty

· Jeff Mazzella, President, Center for Individual Freedom

· Tom Giovanetti, President, Institute for Policy Innovation

· Andrew F. Quinlan, President, Center for Freedom and Prosperity

And here are a few other groups that have individually come out against RAWA:

Campaign for Liberty

Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Competitive Enterprise Institute

The Georgia Lottery

Fraternal Order of Police

Democratic Governors Association

National Conference of State Legislatures

North American Association of State & Provincial Lotteries

Issue #3: The RAWA fallacy

RAWA is being sold as a call to action by its advocates, as they call on Congress to undo a 2011 decision by the Department of Justice which states the 1961 Wire Act was only applicable to sports betting – a ruling that opened the door for states to legalize online gambling within their borders.

However, as Michelle Minton explained in great detail last year, RAWA would not restore anything.

The bill is actually seeking to rewrite the 1961 Wire Act, which is silent on online gambling (not surprising for a bill written in 1961) and was originally intended to tackle illegal bookmaking by organized crime, not as a federal anti-gambling measure.

As Minton noted in her paper [bold mine]:

“the Wire Act was originally intended and long understood as a narrow and targeted weapon to assist the states in preventing organized crime from taking bets on sports—not as a broad federal prohibition that would prevent states from legalizing online gambling within their borders.”

RAWA is not an attempt to restore the Wire Act or some moralistic crusade to protect Americans from the scourge of gambling. We need to make sure everyone is aware that the term “Restoration” is a misnomer, designed to hide what the bill is truly seeking to do: Take the decision away from the states and ban online gambling at the federal level.

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Steve Ruddock

Steve is veteran of the the poker industry, first as a player and now as a writer focusing mainly on the regulated U.S. markets and the politics of poker. Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveRuddock and at Google+.