The Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) has failed to attach itself to an omnibus spending bill that would have seen it sail through Congress.
The bill proposes a federal ban on all forms of online gambling with the exception of horseracing and fantasy sports.
RAWA supporters had anticipated that they could tag the bill onto the must-pass Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, a monstrous 2007-page piece of legislation that largely outlines federal fiscal outlays between now and the end of 2016.
In such a way, they hoped, RAWA would be passed into law with as little fuss as possible, much like the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was slipped onto the end of legislation designed to regulate port security a decade ago.
It was the same tactic, in fact, used in 2014, when RAWA also missed the omnibus. Fortunately for America’s online gambling industry, it may have to wait a long time for the next one to come along. Twelve months, to be precise.
And since RAWA in its current form is very unlikely to be accepted by both chambers, sneaking onto that bus without a ticket perhaps remains its best option.
The legislation is unpopular with many lawmakers because the Sheldon Adelson-backed bill smacks of corporate cronyism.
Meanwhile, many of the Republican mega-donor’s natural allies in the GOP decry it as an unconstitutional violation of the Tenth Amendment that seeks to stymie states’ rights, while Democrats who might normally disapprove of online gambling are loathe to attach themselves to a policy created by Adelson.
A recent initiative to drum up support to push RAWA over the line failed when Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson exhorted fellow attorneys general to countersign a letter baking RAWA.
Only eight AG’s were prepared to put their name to the initiative.
Controversially, one of those was Nevada AG Adam Laxalt, whose 2014 election campaign received funding from Adelson. Laxalt was heavily criticized by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval for his actions, and many felt he had betrayed the Silver State, which opted to legalize and regulate online poker in late 2013.
Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who introduced RAWA to the House early on in the year, fared no better at a recent House hearing of the legislation, which he himself chaired, with the somewhat charged title: “A Casino in Every Smartphone: Law Enforcement Implications.”
Chaffetz had presumably hoped it would be sufficient to trot every tired cliché of the anti-online gambling movement, with lazy references to terrorism, money-laundering and child corruption, except that it didn’t quite work out that way, and the arguments against regulation took a drubbing.
For RAWA, it seems, the chips are down.
Except Adelson has just tossed in a massive reraise.
His purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal may offer him extra clout in his bid to gain political capital and shape opinions on online gambling in the gaming capital of America.
One thing’s for sure: Sheldon Adelson is not done just yet.