If you happen to hear the sound of TAPS playing in the background, that’s RAWA being laid to rest in Congress. The recent hearing on the bill to ban online gambling was a monumental failure and has all but put the final nail in the bill’s coffin.
RAWA was an ominous bill in 2014, but lost much of its power over the last year when lawmakers came to their senses and separated themselves as far as possible. Below are the primary reasons why RAWA failed at the Congressional level.
States Rights Issue
First and foremost, RAWA treads on the rights of every state in the nation. The DOJ memo in 2011 opened the door for states to regulate online poker and RAWA attempted to slam that door shut by taking away each state’s right to choose.
While this has always been the primary issue, it became the bill’s “Achilles Heel” in 2015. As exhibited in the recent hearing on RAWA, many lawmakers are not willing to simply overlook the major violation of state’s rights that RAWA represents.
Inaccurate / Outdated / False Data
RAWA supporters, including those at Sheldon Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, have long been using outdated, inaccurate, and in some cases outright false data to support their claims.
For example, during last week’s RAWA hearing FBI Assistant Director Joseph Campbell claimed that online gambling can be used for money laundering activities. When pressed for examples, he could not give any.
If RAWA supporters could have given accurate and current data to support their position, some may have given the bill a second look or at least acknowledged that a problem may exist. Of course, this didn’t happen.
Focus on Wrong “Problems”
RAWA supporters kept putting focus on issues that were more scare tactics than real problems. Terrorism, underage gamblingm and money laundering are among the few issues they focused on. While these issues may be “buzz worthy,” there not enough data to support the claims on these matters.
The funny thing is how little certain problems have been focused upon during the process, such as Lock Poker and unregulated online poker sites. A major site runs off with millions of dollars and it does not become a top selling point for a ban on online gambling? Unregulated sites fly directly in the face of UIGEA and these sites aren’t regularly used as the poster child for “unlawful gambling?”
Even when attempts are made to highlight past transgressions of online poker sites, they are often misstated. For example, the case against Full Tilt Poker was called a sports betting matter during the RAWA hearing. You could “Learn, Play and Chat” with the pros but I never won a parlay on Full Tilt.
Bill is Dead – For Now
While it hasn’t been officially shelved, most believe that RAWA is effectively dead and has no chance of moving forward in its present form. The sad thing is that I don’t believe that it will stay dead. Adelson has too much money tied up in this to give up without taking another crack at it.
However, I believe that his next shot will be a less invasive plan of attach a’la “RAWA-Lite.” For those unfamiliar with that measure, RAWA-Lite is a proposed moratorium on online gambling that would ban any expansion while Congress does a study on online gambling.
It wouldn’t give Adelson everything he wants, but it may be enough to appease him. Many believe such a measure has the same chances of passing as the original RAWA and after events of the last couple of weeks, I’d have to agree. That doesn’t mean that we won’t be forced to analyze it to death if it comes up. Until that time comes, we can sit back and enjoy the break from the “Doomsday threat” that was RAWA.