Senator Jim Whelan, New Jersey

Senator Jim Whelan, who along with Senator Ray Lesniak has called on New Jersey’s media to fight RAWA. (Image:

New Jersey Senators Jim Whelan and Ray Lesniak have launched a blistering attack on the Restoration of America’s Wire Act.

The Senators sent a communication to New Jersey media outlets in an attempt to drum up opposition to the anti-online gambling bill, which was due to receive a Congressional hearing today (March 5).

The meeting has been postponed due to severe weather conditions in Washington DC.

“This legislation will take tens of millions of dollars from Atlantic City’s casinos at a time when it needs more revenue, not less,” the Senators wrote.

“Not only would this bill do nothing to curb unlawful online gaming, it would push dangerous black market vendors further into the shadows, putting adult consumers and children at even greater risk.

“In fact, the best way to deter dangerous criminal activity, including fraud, money laundering and terrorist financing, is to establish a well-regulated online gaming industry like the ones that have been implemented in New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada, as well as in many other jurisdictions in North America and around the world.”

Witnesses Largely Opposed to Online Gaming

RAWA, which was reintroduced to the House by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) in January wants to prohibit all online gambling at a federal level, with the exception of horseracing and fantasy sports. No exemption would be made for states like New Jersey that have chosen to legalize and regulate online gaming within their borders or for the states that have adopted some form of internet lottery ticket sales.

Specifically, RAWA wants to overturn the 2011 legal opinion by the Department of Justice, which asserted that the Wire Act prohibited only sports betting over the Internet. This effectively opened the door to the state-by-state regulation of online poker and casino games.

The forthcoming hearing has been criticized after a list of witnesses due to testify was leaked to the press, revealing it to be comprised largely of online gaming opponents.

Leave it to the States

“Congress has already spoken on this issue,” complained Whelan and Lesniak. “A federal ban on online gaming would reverse current law, which recognizes that horse racing, fantasy sports and intrastate authorized gaming and lotteries are not subject to restrictions set forth by Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.

“We believe strongly that gambling policy is best left to the states to decide, which has been the case throughout our nation’s history, and that New Jersey’s Internet gaming policy should be determined by the citizens of New Jersey.”

Despite the hearing, RAWA remains an unpopular piece of legislation on Capitol Hill. The perception that Sheldon Adelson is pulling strings behind the scenes means it smacks of cronyism, while its determination to interfere with state’s rights has alienated much of the Republican Party. Democrats, meanwhile, are unlikely to be seen to side with Adelson on such a contentious issue.