It can be hard to focus on domestic issues when all the fires probably haven’t been put out yet at that Syrian airfield, but there are plenty of other stories to get to before the week winds down. One of these involves a letter sent by the National Governor’s Association to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The subject is online gaming and the possible resurrection of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), and the governors would like the AG to know that this is a question best left to the individual states, not Uncle Sam. There’s a good summary of the letter and what led up to it at industry site Online Poker Report.
The National Governors Association Economic Development & Commerce Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week explaining that the group is “concerned with legislative or administrative actions that would ban online Internet gaming and Internet lottery sales.”
The letter makes the case that the decision to legalize or prohibit internet gambling and internet lottery should be left up to the state, as it historically has been.
“While individual governors have different views about offering gaming — in a variety of forms — within their own states,” the letter states, “we agree that decisions at the federal level that affect state regulatory authority should not be made unilaterally without state input.”
The letter highlights the strong regulations and consumer protections that states with legal online gambling or lottery have enacted.
I agree that the remarks Sessions made during his confirmation hearings on this subject were concerning, but not really an overt threat. A lot also depends on the opinion held behind the scenes by Donald Trump. Sessions didn’t exactly say that he supported a federal block for online gaming, nor did he rule it out. But let’s also keep in mind the context of those comments. He was being questioned by Lindsey Graham, unquestionably among the biggest cheerleaders for Sheldon Adelson and his pet piece of legislation. He probably didn’t want to rule out support of RAWA during that hearing for fear of giving Graham an excuse to start an internal GOP fight over getting him confirmed. Keep in mind that Sessions only managed to draw 52 votes for his confirmation amid massive obstruction by the Democrats. He really couldn’t afford any defectors.
In case our new Attorney General needs a refresher course on just how bad this proposed legislation is, he should take a gander at this piece from Eric Peters at the Washington Times. It came out at the same time as this letter and reminds us just why RAWA isn’t actually a restoration of the original Wire Act at all, but rather a massive giveaway to one man and his empire of brick and mortar casinos.
But the original 1961 Wire Act act was written to thwart mafia transfers of illicit money across state lines. The “restoration” act being hard-sold by Adelson — who has given generously to political action commitees with close ties to the Republican congressional leadership — specifically targets legal online gaming.
Which just happens to be his competition.
By making it more difficult — if not impossible — to participate in gaming via computer, from anywhere — RAWA would protect the business monopoly of Adelson’s bricks-and-mortars casinos.
All of this should go without saying, but if Trump and Sessions are taking a fresh and more favorable look at RAWA it could add up to trouble. Stopping people from engaging in online gaming is not even remotely similar to having the federal government crack down on organized crime using wire transfers to move illegally gotten gains around the country. And this isn’t a “federal offense” we’re talking about because the feds have no problem with states allowing casinos if they wish to. This is a power play by Sheldon Adelson and it’s painfully transparent. Let’s hope the new administration is immune to the influence his money generally carries and keeps RAWA at arm’s length.