US Anti-online Gambling Push in 2017
The big story of 2016, as far as online gambling at the federal level is concerned, was the reintroduction of a piece of legislation called RAWA, or to give it its full title the ‘Restoration Of America’s Wire Act’. This proposed bill was toyed with during the early part of the year, and had it been successful, it would have led to a blanket ban on online poker. Ultimately, lawmakers were not invested enough in RAWA to get the bill to any type of vote, though, leaving a large question mark looming over 2017 as to whether RAWA is now dead, or may be revisited?
10 AGs Submit Letter to Trump
In November, a letter signed by ten state attorney general was submitted to Donald Trump’s transition team calling on Congress to bring back a federal online gambling ban. It was quickly answered back by Dina Titus, the Democratic Congresswoman from Nevada, who penned a letter of her own, presenting solid arguments against most of the points outlined by the online gambling critics.
In a statement made to Online Poker Report, Titus made her position on the issue clear. She said that there was simply not enough evidence to support the claims made in the letter, which included assertions that minors were illegally gambling online. Titus said that their arguments relate primarily to the ills of illegal online gambling sites, and that the ones operating legally in Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey did not have any of the issues described. As Titus explained:
“Some of the examples that they use where they talk about the problems of online gambling, they don’t point out that’s online gambling that’s illegal, not online gambling that’s legal. Yet they just leave it hanging out there to make the impression that [these issues are occurring] in places where online gaming is regulated like Nevada.”
New Front Opens Up
On December 7th, Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Mike Fitzgerald used the last days of Congress’ final 2016 session, as well as his final days as a state representative, to introduce a bill seeking to ban online gambling. There was no hope of bill HR 6453 going anywhere, though, leaving many speculating that he was likely just putting on a show for conservative constituents back home, or catering to an anti-gambling lobby like the one spearheaded by Sheldon Adelson.
Possible Anti-iGambling Drive in 2017
If online gambling does end up threatened in 2017, the danger could come from one of two sources. First, lawmakers could once again take up a bill similar to RAWA in order to try and impose a federal ban on online gambling. Alternatively, Congress could push the Department of Justice to change its current position on online gambling, one that leaves decisions about whether or not to legalize and regulate the industry, in the hands of individual states.
With conservative Jeff Sessions tapped to be Attorney General, the latter move could be perilous for online gambling. There are many who believe Sessions would be agreeable to changing the position; however, others think that Sessions being pro states rights might make him hesitant to do so despite personal objections to gambling. As Rep. Titus explains:
“Now, Sessions.. is like a super states’ rights person, so what’s he going to do? But the flip side of that coin is, how much is Mr. Adelson going to play in this? He’s very close to a number of Republicans, including the president.”
Not a Priority for Washington
As for RAWA, Representative Dina Titus feels that any talk of moving the legislation forward is just lip service. She believes that banning online gambling is not a top priority in Washington, even among those who keep proposing legislation like RAWA. It’s her view that these moves are more showmanship, and that there is little support to actually see a ban pass. With 2017 now officially here and Donald Trump set to be sworn in later this month, we’ll have to wait and see what the year has in store for online gambling.
One poker player who is optimistic for online poker legislation advancing during the year ahead is Team PokerStars Pro Jason Somerville, who adapting Trump’s well recognized slogan called upon the president-elect to make poker great again. Commenting on his expectations for 2017, Somerville said:
“I’m optimistic that we’ll see Pennsylvania, California, Michigan, and New York consider online poker bills in 2017. All four states made varying degrees of legislative progress in 2016, and all already allow some form of live and/or online gambling within their borders. With enough pressure from their constituents and state business interests, I’m hopeful at least one of those states will pass reasonable online poker legislation.”